Junior Eurovision 2016: The new time slot and smaller arena are opportunities not failures

First we looked at six things Junior Eurovision 2016 got right. Then we looked at nine things Junior Eurovision 2016 got wrong.

And from both lists we left out two major points of contention — the new time slot and the small arena. Well, we weren’t being forgetful. The reason for their omission thus far is simply because while Junior Eurovision 2016 didn’t get these elements right, there wasn’t anything inherently wrong about them either.

If anything, both the time change and smaller venue could be seen as opportunities for Junior Eurovision and used to make the contest bigger and better. Let us explain.

1. New time slot

The TV ratings for Junior Eurovision 2016 sucked. Viewing figures were well down in many of the participating nations, with audiences in Italy and the Netherlands hitting record lows.

People quickly blamed the drop in numbers on the show’s new Sunday afternoon time slot.

But is that completely fair?

With almost three million people tuning in to cheer on Olivia Wieczorek, Poland managed to buck the trend spectacularly. And that was purely down to clever promotion. After over a decade away from the contest, the broadcaster oragnised a high profile national final which produced a popular winner. Viewers got swept up in the hype and happily switched on their TVs on Sunday afternoon.

Lovely Olivia #JESC #jesc2016 #eurovision #embrace #junioreurovision #junioreurovision2016

A photo posted by wiwibloggs (@wiwibloggs) on

Compare this to the Netherlands, who quietly axed their long-running national final format and selected Kisses with minimal fuss. Or to Italy, who failed for the second year running to capitalise on their 2014 victory. You can’t expect people to watch a show if they don’t even know it’s on.

Rather than writing off the time change as something Junior Eurovision 2016 got wrong, we’re more inclined to look at it as an opportunity.

Its biggest plus is that it makes the show more kid-friendly. Now, children in places like Georgia and Armenia can cheer on their favourites without having to stay up into the early hours of the morning to see the results.

And it’s not just the east that benefits. The new earlier time could be used as a hook to entice some of the big-name western absentees.

If we take the UK as an example, its evening schedules are dominated by hugely popular talent shows like The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing. Neither ITV nor the BBC will want to move these ratings behemoths to make way for a bunch of kids singing, and Channel 4 isn’t going to take the risk of challenging them. However, all three broadcasters might be willing to shake-up their afternoon schedules — no one’s going to mourn the loss of a Come Dine With Me omnibus.

This logic also applies to France, Spain, Germany and the Nordics.

Apart from viewing figures, the demise of the televote was also attributed to the new time slot. But this needn’t be the case.

Let countries that broadcast live use televote, and have 100% juries for those that opt for delayed coverage. There’s already precedent, with Slovenia and Australia going down this route in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Alternatively, organisers could do like countless reality programmes and record the results show one day later. This would give every broadcaster ample time to arrange a televote, so long as they aired the main show before the results went live.

2. Small arena

In 2014 Malta converted a disused shipping building into a massive arena especially for Junior Eurovision. But this time PBS went smaller, much smaller. The 2016 contest took place in the relatively intimate surrounds of the Mediterranean Conference Centre.

The venue might be the island’s largest conference centre, but on screen it looked tiny. Viewers weren’t impressed.

Matters weren’t helped by the fact that the cameras insisted on panning out, emphasising the theatre’s size deficiencies. Frequent overcrowding of the stage also contributed to the diminutive feel.

But a giant arena shouldn’t be a prerequisite for a great Junior Eurovision.

Malta might have messed up this time, but there’s no reason why future host countries can’t learn from the mistakes and harness small venues to their advantage.

Shows such as X Factor and The Voice entertain millions every week. And usually they’re only filmed in front of audiences of a few hundred. No one complains about these venues being too small. If it’s good enough for Simon Cowell, it should be good enough for the EBU.

Much of Malta’s problems would have been alleviated by tighter camera work — what you don’t show is just as important as what you show — and cleverer use of the stage.

Given the constant precariousness of Junior Eurovision’s future, it’s essential that the contest can successfully embrace the smaller venues. In doing so, costs can be kept down, making the job of hosting much more attractive for poorer nations.

All we need is for one country to do it right.

What did you think of Junior Eurovision 2016? Let us know in the comments below.

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Photo: Andres Putting (EBU)