There weren’t very many people wandering around Oslo’s so-called “Eurovision Village,” set up in front of City Hall, even on the afternoon of Eurovision’s first semi-final. Perhaps it was the threatening storm clouds overhead, but a new public opinion poll may also offer the answer.
The poll, conducted by research firm Norstat for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), indicates that two out of three Norwegians have little or no interest in the extravagant and expensive Eurovision Song Contest that NRK itself is producing in Oslo this year.
The pop music festival, in which 39 nations are competing, is generally considered a very big deal in and around Europe, known for launching the careers of such bands as Sweden’s ABBA. NRK can also console itself with ratings figures showing that nearly 800,000 Norwegians tuned in to the first of two semi-finals aired on Tuesday night.
NRK reported Thursday that statistics from TNS Gallup counted 766,000 viewers of the first Eurovision semi-final in Norway, up 78,000 from last year, when the contest was held in Moscow.
But overall interest from the general public is much lower than arrangers and promoters might wish, according to survey results. Answers varied from county to county in Norway, and among age groups, but the largest percentage answered that they were “svært lite interessert” (had extremely low interest) in Eurovision.
Tickets were also still available this week for both the live broadcasts and rehearsals from the Telenor Arena at Fornebu, even though organizers originally said the final on Saturday, for example, had sold out. They’ve since been sent reserved tickets in return.
NRK spokesman Peter Svaar claimed the national broadcaster “wasn’t exactly forcing Eurovision on anyone,” adding that TV viewers in Norway “can simply turn it off” if they’re not interested.
“Our impression is still that interest is high, and the ratings are good, too,” Svaar said. The survey results, he suggested, may “have something to do with those who love to hate Grand Prix (Eurovision’s Norwegian name).”
More than 2,000 journalists are in Oslo this week to cover Eurovision, but some have admitted to also getting weary of the Eurovision spectacle. Anastasia Adrapeko of Radio Mayak in Moscow is broadcasting daily from Oslo, but said her reporters are focusing on life in Norway and other things than strictly the song contest.
“People in Russia lost a lot of interest in Eurovision after the final in Moscow last year,” Adrapeko told NRK. “It just got to be a bit too much, so even though we’re here to cover the event, it’s not Eurovision itself we’re focusing on.”
She noted, however, that her guest on Wednesday was last year’s Norwegian winner, Alexander Rybak, and Russia’s hope for the finals, The Peter Nalitch Band.
NRK was set to broadcast the second semi-final Thursday evening, starting at 9pm. It would feature performers from Lithuania, Armenia, Israel, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, The Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia, Ireland, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Georgia and Turkey.