Once a year, all the countries of Europe come together to settle centuries of bitter rivalry through the medium of music, in an event known as the Eurovision Song Contest. This spectacle is a glorious cocktail of euro-weirdness and (mostly) terrible music, with the winner chosen by a voting system that is influenced heavily by Europe’s complex web of ancient political alliances and enmities.
In this age of on-demand TV, Eurovision is one of the few remaining cultural moments that the whole of Europe shares at exactly the same time, which makes for a great international Twitter back-channel.
During the event itself, which began at 8pm GMT and lasted for three hours, the contest was mentioned 5.6 million times on Twitter, with those tweets reaching a massive 19 billion impressions. The below chart shows a minute by minute trend-line of tweet volume, which peaked at almost 50k tweets when Ukraine’s Jamala was announced as the shock winner with 1944, a politically charged dirge about Stalinist oppression.
The political significance of this was not lost on Twitter, as this wordcloud shows, Ukraine and Russia featured heavily in the discussion. Australia also received a large volume of mentions, since many felt that the country’s performance deserved victory on its musical merits and lost out due to the competition’s notoriously partisan voting patterns. Yes, this is a singing contest where geo-political history matters.
This analysis is further reinforced with our Buzzgraph tool, which shows a strong likelihood of the terms Australia, Russia and Ukraine all appearing alongside each other in the same tweets. It’s also telling that the word “win” is more highly correlated with Australia and Russia (which used impressive visual effects in its performance) than with Ukraine. This perhaps shows that many viewers simply did not feel that the Ukraine performance deserved to win.
We should probably explain, even though Australia technically isn’t in Europe, they are allowed to compete. And Israel. Don’t ask why, nobody knows. Also, for the first time ever in 2016 the contest was broadcast live in the US, and since they contributed over 156,000 tweets during the live show, it looks like our American friends might be ready to embrace Eurovision – maybe we’ll see them competing one day? This map of tweets shows that the contest’s reach extends far beyond Europe.
Despite Eurovision being a new phenomenon to Americans, they took to Twitter with gusto to share their opinions on the contest, contributing more tweets to the discussion than most of the participating countries. But UK and Spanish tweeters were by far the most vocal, with each nation accounting for approximately 20% of total tweets during the Eurovision show.
There’s no denying that Eurovision always manages to inflame passions across the continent, and our sentiment analysis algorithm found a 60/40 split between positive and negative tweets on the competition.
The gender split of tweeters is fairly even, although skews slightly towards women.
This year’s contest was poignant for British viewers, following the recent death of a much loved broadcaster, Sir Terry Wogan, who famously presented the show in the UK for many years, with his celebrated wit becoming increasingly cutting as he, like the rest of us, drank his way through each show. We identified a significant spike in mentions at the moment when British viewers were all invited by the current presenter to raise a glass in Sir Terry’s honour, with the accompanying tweet becoming one of the most shared of the evening.
Finally, we’ll wrap up with some of the other most retweeted posts from this year’s contest: