The Eurovision Song Contest is the world’s longest-running, international music competition. Since its inaugural event in 1956, 52 countries have participated at least once, creating a fan base that stretches across the globe. Today, over 180 million people tune in to watch the televised competition, with over 20,000 attendees travelling to the host country to enjoy the contest in person.
Usually, The Eurovision Village sits at the heart of the physical experience of the contest; it’s a place where fans can meet up to enjoy the music, socialise and embrace the positive vibes. With the pandemic preventing mass gatherings, for the 2021 contest, Rotterdam Festivals reached out to entertainment agency Tribe Company and DEPT® to recreate the physical atmosphere of The Eurovision Village in a virtual world. The result? A groundbreaking virtual experience; the first of its kind in the Eurovision Song Contest history.
Imagining an electric experience
“If the world can’t come to Rotterdam, we’ll bring Rotterdam to the world”. Early in the creative process, we sought out ways to showcase the spectacle of the stage performances, while conveying the energetic buzz of Rotterdam. Touring the host city is such an important part of attending an international event, and we didn’t want the tens of thousands of people that would normally make the trip to miss out on this experience. Plus, the opportunity to open Rotterdam up to the world to explore was an exciting challenge.
We wanted to evoke the same feeling in the fans as a physical visit; a simple platform filled with live streams wouldn’t suffice. Our creative inspiration led us to design a 3D world, where visitors are invited into a new surrounding to immerse themselves in the magic of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Taking things to the next level
A stable solution for scale
The Eurovision Song Contest is the world’s largest non-sporting TV event. This year’s Village programme was predicted to grab even more attention with crowd-pullers including Duncan Laurence, Johnny Logan, Afrojack, and the Junior Song Festival, running alongside the City Programme that offered more than 50 fringe events.
Data from the last competition showed younger audiences are watching the Eurovision Song Contest in greater numbers, and viewership on YouTube during the week of the festival is also on the rise. This evolving viewing behaviour, as well as the depth of the new virtual experience, means more people were likely to watch online and, therefore, the platform had to be stable enough to host a rush of global traffic.
Performance, usability and accessibility were essential in the design and carried through into development. The platform is hosted in 12 different regions around the world on Microsoft Azure App Service Plans, and supported by a cloud-based fallback infrastructure, ensuring high traffic accessing the platform is optimally distributed and not dependent on the same type of resources.
The Eurovision Song Contest is acclaimed for being an inclusive event. The theme ‘Open Up’ was selected for this iteration with the warm message of inviting people to open up to others, to different opinions, each other’s stories and of course to each other’s music. Eurovision’s use of technology had to be an extension of these values and not inadvertently exclude anyone.
“If the world can’t come to Rotterdam, we’ll bring Rotterdam to the world.”
Applauding our collaborative approach
The Eurovision Song Contest, its lively village and iconic surroundings were open 24/7, free of charge during the nine-day duration of the festival. The strong collaboration between Rotterdam Festivals, DEPT® and Tribe Company was the key ingredient that led to us delivering this ambitious project at a rapid pace.
Nobody knows exactly what the world will look like in a few months, but it is very plausible that virtual solutions will occupy a permanent place. The 3D virtual village we created for the Eurovision Song Contest demonstrates how a digital world can maintain the offline feeling, truly connecting people, while providing global access for everyone. This project is proof that with the right efforts, even the most legendary events can be turned into a digital success.
Executive Creative Director