182 Million Watched Eurovision This Year, But Why Doesn’t It Have American Appeal?
Earlier this month, millions of viewers watched the eagerly anticipated finale of an international television phenomenon, in which a new person took the crown after an intense battle for supremacy of the known world.
We are, of course, talking about the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest final, which boasted a viewership of around 182 million people across 40 international markets, more than 10 times the American ratings of the Game of Thrones series finale.
Despite the almost unfathomable popularity of Eurovision abroad, though, it did not air in the United States. Americans love singing competitions — see American Idol, The Voice, and umpteen other televised talent shows — and yet, for some reason, they have shown little interest in the world’s largest non-sporting live TV event, the same one that has introduced the world to Celine Dion, Olivia Newton-John, and ABBA.
The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, the 64th edition of the competition, culminated on May 18, with the 25-year-old Dutch singer-songwriter Duncan Laurence taking home the trophy with his song “Arcade.” And though Eurovision live-streamed on YouTube, this year’s contest didn’t light up television sets in the United States, since Logo opted not to broadcast the final this year.
Logo, a Viacom channel, had only started airing the final in 2016, sixty years after Eurovision got its start. The 2018 Eurovision final was only watched by an average of 74,000 viewers, Deadline reports. By contrast, Stephen Colbert’s Eurovision-themed Late Show skit from 2016 has racked up almost 1.8 million views on YouTube thus far.
So why does America seem, at best, only peripherally aware of Eurovision? A 2013 Quartz think piece offered five reasons why Americans “will never understand the point of Eurovision” — including our bemusement at intentional cheesiness and, humorously, our suspicion about “anything with a ‘Euro’ prefix.”
But a 2018 article Arwa Mahdawi wrote for The Guardian suggested Eurovision could be right up Americans’ alley. “It’s flamboyant, kitsch, and filled with low-level political feuding,” Mahdawi observed. “It’s like American Idol crossed with RuPaul’s Drag Race crossed with Survivor. Sprinkled with LSD.” (She also argued that America could even compete alongside other countries, citing Israel and Australia as proof that Eurovision isn’t exclusively “Euro.”)
Whatever the reasons behind the relative invisibility of Eurovision in the United States, the times are changing. Will Ferrell is starring in the upcoming Netflix comedy Eurovision, a film he also co-wrote. Plus, the European Broadcasting Union has even given Swedish production company Brain Academy the license to develop an American version of Eurovision, titled American Song Contest and tentatively scheduled for 2021.
“Outside of sports, the Eurovision Song Contest is the biggest TV show on Earth, it unites a continent and everybody gets to vote,” said Peter Settman, CEO and creative director of Brain Academy, per The Hollywood Reporter. “We can’t wait to introduce this wonderful competition to the biggest TV market in the world. TV/video audiences are getting bigger every year so this is the perfect time to bring this exciting show to the American public.”
Time will tell, however, whether the American public will get on board.