On 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…