Eurovision to Be Broadcast In the U.S. for the First Time

SolayohOn Monday, Logo TV announced that it will be broadcasting the Eurovision Song Contest Final live on Saturday, May 14. This will be the first time ever that the contest will be viewed by American television audiences.

In the Lemur household we received this news mostly, but not entirely, positively. We have for years believed that Logo was the most suitable network to give Americans the opportunity to join in the Eurovision fun en masse. In recent years, we have seen an increasing stateside interest in the Song Contest, both in conversation and in traffic to this website, so we felt the time was ripe for the show to come to these shores.

Logo, for those unfamiliar, is a Viacom-owned cable network that targets LGBT audiences. Its biggest cultural contribution to date has been RuPaul’s Drag Race. Logo reaches 52 million households, roughly 45 percent of U.S. households with television. So while this U.S. broadcast represents a big step forward, it is important to note that access is still limited.

The downside of a Logo broadcast is that they negotiated an exclusive deal with the EBU. Access to the Final via Eurovision.tv, from what we understand, will be geoblocked for American audiences. We can only watch the Final on Logo or Logo’s website. So for those of us who have gotten used to watching online, we must now either make sure our cable package carries Logo or use a proxy server to view something that had previously been available to us for free.

We also observed how the news story was framed. Logo’s press release prominently featured Alyona Lanskaya’s “Solayoh” (ahead of Conchita, no less), and characterized Eurovision as “the campiest competition this side of ‘Drag Race.'” No denying Alyona’s camp cred, but it seemed strange placement since most Americans are unfamiliar 1) with the country of Belarus and 2) its rich history of Eurovision camp.

A shadow and a doubt grows in our mind, because Americans tuning in for a 3-hour camp fest may be disappointed. Sure we still get an occasional Cezar, but the Song Contest has come a long way from the camp high water mark of 2009. We may have a few moments (one less, sadly, because of Romania’s expulsion), but the simple fact is that Eurovision is becoming more competent every year. What’s equally important, in our opinion, is how Eurovision has become an increasingly prominent platform for LGBT rights, but that story hasn’t been presented yet over here.

The other thought we’ve had is that this broadcast has the potential to engage an audience unfamiliar with Eurovision performance conventions. Iceland and Russia are using screen projections – but will folks know that it’s simply a ripoff of last year’s winner? How about Conchita’s phoenix wings? Azerbaijan’s fire curtain? Or the sheer Greekness of every Greek song presentation? Will Americans have any clue what to make of a Balkan ballad?

Oh the things you will see…

6 thoughts on “Eurovision to Be Broadcast In the U.S. for the First Time

  1. A leeeetle correction to the headline here: This is **not** the first time the Eurovision Song Contest has been broadcast in America. It aired (on tape delay) on PBS in 1971, as part of the concert anthology series “Fanfare”.

    It’s #28 on this (not chronological) list: http://americanarchive.org/about-the-american-archive/projects/net-catalog/series/fanfare

    It is the first time it’s aired LIVE in America, a distinction that appeared in the earliest official announcements, but predictably got lost once the mainstream press and the EBU’s crack team of social media weenies got their mitts on it.

    I’m forced to wonder if the Contest might’ve garnered more interest in America if 1971 hadn’t been such a dreary year. And I’ll allow others to draw whatever parallels are appropriate.

    And here’s some speculative deduction for you: This new broadcast was announced absurdly close to the airdate, and they say it will be completely commercial-free. That’s 3+ hours of no revenue on a commercial broadcaster – with an inexplicable free web stream thrown in for good measure.

    This does not make sense … unless it’s an infomercial-type buy by the EBU. I rather suspect they figured out that the USA was responsible for an inordinately large percent of their YouTube bandwidth bill, and this was an economical way to redirect distribution without leaving us out entirely. Pretty clever of them if I’m right.

    • I haven’t heard if Logo is planning to bend the rules for this particular event, but generally you can’t access video on their site unless your cable package includes them. My suspicion is simply that the deal got inked late. Chris thinks it’s an attempt to gauge interest in the contest, and if it does well, they’ll build on it next year.

      • They’re saying on Twitter that the LOGO stream will be open to everyone (per @LogoTV) – and that the usual feeds from YouTube and ESC-TV will be geoblocked fin the USA (per @eurovisionpress).

        I just hope we don’t get stuck with some flamboyantly showboating LOGO “personalities” as announcers, making it all about themselves and scaring everyone but LOGO’s core constituency away. My VPN is at the ready, just in case.

  2. I am not a happy camper that they are blocking internet access to Eurovision.tv for the final online. Not everyone gets Logo! And most people are moving away from cable (and even satellite) anyway….this will result in few viewers here in the States. Not a good plan.

  3. If it is going to be geoblocked on YouTube, then thank goodness for NDR and eurovision.de…

  4. The geoblocking really messed me up this year. I think (?) Logo is available in Canada, but we don’t have it in our household. Much as I love Drag Race (and of course Eurovision) I don’t think I would become a subscriber just for these two shows.

    The quality of the streams on Eurovision.tv seems to have deliberately been made significantly worse than last year as well, and unlike last year, the full semis weren’t uploaded to the ESC Youtube channel shortly after they aired.

    We struggled through the two semis of the Pixelvision Song Contest before being disappointed on Saturday to find the stream blocked. In the end after shenanigans we were able to watch the BBC stream (which was very nice and HD) but I have to say I prefer to watch without commentary.

    Hope they get all this sorted out next year but I suspect this is the new normal. I wonder how many people outside of Europe who are used to watch the contest were prevented from doing so this year by this deal with Logo.

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