In a Eurovision season unlike any other, when more broadcasters than usual opted for internally selecting their artists from the previous year rather than holding national finals, one broadcaster decided to mix things up by merging elements of both.
Bulgarian public broadcaster BNT announced the internal selection of their Eurovision 2020 representative VICTORIA back in March of last year, soon after the announcement of the cancellation of the contest, as many other broadcasters had decided to do. They also announced that the song would also be internally selected, but this is where they changed things up from the norm.
Rather than the internal selection fully taking place behind closed doors, as so many internal selections do, the internally selected song would be chosen from one of the five songs released as a part of VICTORIA’s EP, or a single she had released the previous year (although within the required timeframe of September 1, 2020).
The songs on VICTORIA’s EP were released on five consecutive days over the course of a week to the public, who were then invited to provide feedback on the possible Eurovision songs which would be taken into account by VICTORIA, BNT, and sponsor iCard in selecting which entry would represent them at the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam in May.
And it’s this idea of releasing all of the potential songs for internal selection and encouraging public feedback through qualitative rather than quantitative means is something that has stood out compared to other selections by broadcasters.
This open form of internal selection offers a lot of benefits to broadcasters. It generates hype amongst Eurovision fans, who are able to follow the internal selection process in a similar way as they do with a national selection process, and comes at an extremely more budget conscious price tag, without the need to stage a large-scale television production. The process also allows a level of transparency between the broadcaster and the public that is often lost when the regular internal selection process is followed.
The feedback system used by iCard and BNT throughout VICTORIA’s internal selection process also allowed the public to have their say about what they liked and didn’t like about the songs that were being considered. The people could click to say whether they endorsed the song going to the Eurovision stage, and could provide feedback in their own words to explain why they did or did not endorse the song.
So, could these open forms of internal selections be the future of how broadcasters internally select songs for the Eurovision Song Contest?
There’s a lot that may need to be taken into account by other Eurovision broadcasters before considering open internal selections as an option in the future, including the popularity of the song on YouTube and social media, the accessibility of the song through radio stations throughout Europe, and, of course, the song’s performance and placement at the contest in May.
However, the benefits that have already been seen cannot be understated. The release of multiple songs, all with the potential of representing the country on the world’s biggest music stage, was able to generate hype by Eurovision fans around an internal selection that is not regularly seen. An open internal selection is almost able to generate advertisement for itself in a way a regular internal selection isn’t exactly able to do.
No matter how well VICTORIA performs at Eurovision in Rotterdam, there is quite a chance that other broadcasters consider this open form of internal selection when they go for an internal selection in the future. Whether the format needs to be reworked for other countries or not, this could be how we see internal selections worked in the future. And the better VICTORIA places at Rotterdam, the more of a chance we’ll see this from other broadcasters in the years to come.