Photo: Thomas Hanses (EBU)

Shortly after the final of Eurovision 2021, TV-quality videos of the semi-final and grand final jury shows started appearing on the Russian social network site VK. This footage is generally only available for the professional juries that each broadcaster has appointed. These were just the latest in a series of Eurovision leaks on the popular website. In the run-up to the contest, many songs were shared ahead of their official release dates and times.

In the latest episode of the Russian podcast Welcome, Europe!, a group of VK microbloggers discussed the topic of the Eurovision leaks.

Note: The podcasters never endorse the leaking of songs. In fact, they discuss the ways that the EBU can and should protect their feed. They’re simply chatting with someone who has leaked songs previously to gain insight and seek solutions.

Eurovision leaks on VK

Social network site VK — a Russian equivalent of Facebook — stirred controversy multiple times throughout the Eurovision 2021 season. About a quarter of the songs from Eurovision 2021 leaked on the social network site prior to their official release. Additionally, several national final songs also appeared on the social media site ahead of schedule.

Ukrainian Eurovision microblogger Denis explained in the Welcome, Europe! podcast that using a VPN in a country close to the international date line (IDL) can help to retrieve a song that has yet to be released in Europe. Most streaming services publish a given song at midnight on the release day. Typically, it doesn’t matter where you are, as long it’s past midnight in your geographical location.

As a result, a song might be found online as early as 11:00 in parts of Europe the day before its scheduled release on music streaming platforms. At that time, it’s the official release day in Kiribati, the country closest to the IDL. Following a pattern, most leaks were songs that were set to be premiered on music streaming services. All the leaked songs were indeed published on VK between 11:00 and 12:00 CET the day before release.

This problem did not occur with the highly anticipated release of The Roop‘s Eurovision 2021 song “Discoteque” as the song was specifically programmed to be released at 00:00 Vilnius time, rather than midnight at any given place in the world.

The other VK microbloggers on the podcast, Dima and Yauhen (who are not leakers themselves), explained that the situation with the Iceland leak through VK was slightly different. Unlike the other songs, “10 Years” was not found on purpose. Instead, a group of Russian hackers appeared to have found the song by accident and then shared it with Eurovision fans they found on the social network.

Denis shared that it was particularly easy for leakers to find Ana Soklič’s “Amen”. The Slovenian broadcaster RTVSLO gave every file a unique ID. The leakers only had to play with numbers for a bit to find the song among RTVSLO’s files.

Accessing Eurovision jury shows via satellite feeds

Ukrainian microblogger Denis revealed that he was able to access the satellite signal that the EBU sent to the separate broadcasters.

The student said that he started satellite feed hunting out of curiosity and tried his luck to see if he could find any Eurovision-related signals. He was lucky and managed to watched the jury shows of both the semi-final and grand final via his satellite dish. He later shared them on VK.

In the Welcome, Europe! podcast, Denis explained:

“It’s actually quite simple. It’s a known case that the EBU needs to broadcast the contest over a great distance with an active quality, with a good sound, because many television companies in Europe work with stereo sound. It’s to plunge into the same atmosphere of the sound as in the venue.”

“The EBU needs to show images to all the broadcasters that participate in the contest or those who want to show it. Therefore, the EBU lifts up a technical channel on the satellite of the times, which they turn on and off whenever they need or don’t need it for the broadcasters. There, you might see the dress rehearsals each day with an excellent quality — without all these watermarks. However, there is one problem. Because it’s a technical channel, you need a large dish, and the signal is quite unstable.”

The jury shows are generally restricted to the public to not spoil the fun of the show on the next day. In 2016, a member of the Russian professional jury was stripped from her duty after she shared images of the show on the streaming app Periscope.

What is satellite feed hunting?

Satellite feed hunting is only practised by a handful of hobbyists who invest in good satellite dishes and several receivers. With this, they can catch satellite signals intended for communication between broadcasters or between newsrooms and satellite vans.

Generally, these hobbyists look for live signals and watch them, sometimes sharing good ones on special forums. Most reporters and journalists working with satellite connections are unaware of the practice. In 2019, a Russian satellite feed hunter caught a live signal from the UK commentator booth with Scott Mills and Rylan Clark-Neal just before they went on air.

Do you think that the EBU should put better measures in place to protect the satellite feeds? Should broadcasters be more careful with their streaming release dates? Let us know in the comments below!

Read all our Eurovision 2021 news here.

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vitalii
vitalii
1 month ago

every year i download satellite feed (Lena was singing about it lol) to watch some pieces of eurovision in super quality

Piet
Piet
1 month ago

Talking about leaks and intercepting feeds: would it be possible for hackers to intercept the public votes and change them to their own liking? The jury votes are personal and registered but how easily would data from the public be “adaptable”? How safe is the (digital!) counting of the votes on a national level? I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened this year, considering the odd results of the public voting!

James
James
1 month ago

Hire a better plumber.

Thanos
Thanos
1 month ago

Ngl, being an electrical engineering student myself, I found the satellite feed hunting very clever and intriguing as an idea xD.

Stevan
1 month ago

They should upload sattelite feed quality to Youtube. Tired of watching stuff without it being in 50fps. Also upload jury shows after the final is over ?

Darren
1 month ago

OFF TOPIC but massive congratulations to on the book deal! That’s amazing.

William Lee Adams
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Darren

Thank you so much Darren 🙂 That’s so kind of you to write!!!

Branko86
Branko86
1 month ago
Reply to  Darren

What book deal???

Darren
1 month ago
Reply to  Branko86

“Wild Dances” his new memoir coming in 2022

Fatima
Fatima
1 month ago

We should be able to see the Jury shows. Perhaps not until after the event, but they should be viewable. Then we can see for ourselves who screwed up and understand better the Jury / Televote split.

Alex
Alex
1 month ago

About the songs release on ITunes and streaming platforms, well that’s not a secret lol. We all know that Australia/NZ get them first after midnight their time so it’s not a relevation.

About the juries access, it’s so weird but i’ve already thought that by giving remote access to the press this year, it would be easier to leak the clips? Also, how come RTVE published snippets of the jury performances, how was it allowed? I remember seeing them the night before the live shows.

Alex
Alex
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex

Snippets only? I think RTVE is sharing the jury show every year in their official website. They also have a personal camera in the arena to show the full spanish rehearsals (via their web and instagram, I think). I assume the EBU gave them the right to do it, it’s not the first year we see it…

Alex
Alex
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex

yeah but why did they give them rights to share small parts of the jury performances??

Alex
Alex
1 month ago

VK is like that one person who really can’t wait for songs to be released.

Artyom
Artyom
1 month ago

As Nicolas said, this is really all down to poor choices by the EBU and the national broadcasters. Some basic IT and security practises would have prevented any of this. Humans are curious creatures, if you don’t protect your content appropriately, it will be discovered.

Neil
Neil
1 month ago

I know this is unrelated but I’m from the U.S. and Croatia’s Semi performance and Lithuania’s Grand Final performance was on YouTube when it’s supposed to be geoblocked. And i checked that my vpn was off. Kinda weird ngl

Leo
Leo
1 month ago
Reply to  Neil

Yeah mine too!
LOL

BadWoolfGirl
BadWoolfGirl
1 month ago
Reply to  Neil

I noticed that too. I was surprised that those two are playable in America despite the fact everything else isn’t due to geoblocking.

Neil
Neil
1 month ago
Reply to  BadWoolfGirl

Glad I’m not the only one lol

Vlad
Vlad
1 month ago
Reply to  Neil

I think The Roop is signed to Universal (Universal Music Finland?), maybe that’s why

Anne Marie
Anne Marie
1 month ago
Reply to  Vlad

Yes, Albina is also signed to Universal, this could be the reason

Badwoolfgirl
Badwoolfgirl
1 month ago
Reply to  Vlad

Actually, the Roop are signed to Warner.

esc_fl
esc_fl
1 month ago
Reply to  Neil

I think the United Kingdom’s song in 2019 is also viewable without VPN?

BadWoolfGirl
BadWoolfGirl
1 month ago
Reply to  esc_fl

I didn’t believe you, but then I looked it up and yes Bigger than Us is playable in the US. No, I never made the connection that the artist record labels may be why their live Performances are available to watch the US while the rest of geoblocked.

Jo.
Jo.
1 month ago

the EBU and the broadcasters clearly need better IT.

Nicolas
Nicolas
1 month ago

I always thought the EBU satellite broadcast of the jury shows was encrypted and only the TV broadcasters receivers had a special key/pass to decode the satellite stream. That’s the basics lol.
About streaming platforms it’s also stupid to not set a unique release time based on GMT time and not geographical time zones.