Australian broadcaster SBS planning Asian-Pacific 'Eurovision' spin-off

The song contest will be held in Australia in 2017 with up to 20 countries expected to participate

Eurovision, Asia Pacific, SBS, EBU

[Wiki Commons]

After welcoming Australia into the Eurovision Song Contest as a wildcard entry last year and fully fledged competitor for 2015’s Stockholm sing-off in May, Australian broadcaster SBS has revealed that it is to launch a spin-off contest for Asia Pacific – with 20 countries from the region battling it from 2017 to win Eurovision Asia.

With K-Pop and Bollywood likely to feature on the stage, the inaugural show will be hosted by Australia, with the winners then hosting the following year, as is the case with the Eurovision.

Blink TV, the production company behind SBS’ broadcasts of the Eurovision Song Contest since 2009, said that the Asian spin-off has the potential to reach a global audience of a billion viewers, vastly eclipsing the Eurovision's 300m annual viewers.

As the development of the show is still in the earliest stages, SBS has not confirmed which countries are expected to take part. It is also unclear whether Australia’s involvement with the project will mean that the country will exit the Eurovision. Korean-Australian singer Dami Im, who won the fifth season of The X Factor Australia, will represent the country at this year’s contest singing the song Sound of Silence.

"We are excited by the fact that Eurovision’s appeal is crossing continental borders to Asian countries,” said Dr Frank-Dieter Freiling, chairman of the Reference Group of the Eurovision Song Contest. “SBS Australia has been broadcasting the Eurovision Song Contest for over 30 years, so we feel they are a perfect partner to build an alliance of networks with, and give Asian songwriters and artists the opportunity to perform on the Eurovision stage."

Eurovision Asia is not the first song contest to have taken its cues from the Eurovision, which was first won by the Swiss song Refrain in 1956. Poland’s Sopot International Song Festival, organised by the Polish state broadcaster, has been running intermittently since 1961.

The Intervision Song Contest, an Eastern Bloc equivalent to Eurovision, was held four times between 1977 and 1980, featuring countries as diverse as Canada and Turkmenistan. Last held in 2008, the Intervision is mooted to return, due to the cultural anger of Russia to the “moral decay of the West,” in light of Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst winning the Eurovision in 2014.

Chinese broadcasters have also shown an interest in getting in on the Eurovision act, with the first broadcast of the contest in China having taken place last year. Ying Lei, a spokesperson for Hunan Television, said China is interested in following Australia’s footsteps and getting its own wildcard performer on the Eurovision stage.

“That’s the question we ask,” The Guardian reported Lei saying, “Whether we can follow in China, at least have a special performer on the stage and then join the big family and join the show.”

While Sietse Bakker, Eurovision’s event supervisor, has confirmed that there has been “increasing interest” in a Chinese entrant, the European Broadcasting Union has denied the Asian country will take part anytime soon.

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