Eurovision Song Contest Garners Strong U.K. Ratings

9:24 AM PST 05/28/2012 by Stuart Kemp
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The world’s most popular non-sporting event wins despite controversy and a dismal second-to-last showing from British entry.

LONDON -- The Eurovision Song Contest, billed as the world's most popular music competition, courted controversy before the territory sing-off tuned up and ended with some in the British media calling to pull out after the U.K. came in second to last, all but ignored in the highly politicized voting process.

But despite the fact the U.K.'s Engelbert Humperdinck crooned his way to just 12 points, finishing next to last, the show garnered 9.6 million viewers in the country, according to figures from ratings agency BARB.

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Only Norway's entry, Tooji, fared worse, earning seven points and coming in 26th in the finals.

The show, which aired Saturday night on pubcaster BBC One on, hit the heights at 11 p.m. despite the fact that Swedish singer Loreen was racing away from the field with a whopping 372 points.

The winning country also earns the right to stage the finals next year.

The marathon 210-minute show sang to an average audience of 7.47 million (36.2 percent of the audience) on BBC One between 8 p.m. and 11.30 p.m. To put that in context, on commercial web ITV1, England's soccer match against Norway attracted 4.64 million or a 23.5 percent between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., managing a peak of 6.6 million at 9 p.m.

According to website Oikotimes, the Eurovision song contest was the most watched in Spain since 2008, drawing an average of 6.5 million viewers, up 2 million from last year's song-and-dance show.

A total of 17 million watched the show on Spain's TVE.

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Audience numbers peaked when Spain's Pastora Soler took to the stage, with 8.6 million Spaniards watching. The voting was viewed by 8 million people.

The Spanish act finished a respectable 10th spot, with 97 points. Italy finished ninth, Germany eighth and Turkey  seventh.

Host country Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, reached the dizzy heights of fourth in the contest, having spent more than $60 million to give the capital city of Baku a face-lift and constructing a 23,000-seat arena specifically for the finals.

According to watercooler reports, a large part of the British audience stuck with the broadcast despite crashing and burning in the voting in the hope that eventual winner Loreen would use her victory speech to take a swipe at alleged human rights abuses in the host country of 9 million people .

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The run-up had seen protests in the streets and heavy-handed police breaking up the throngs, causing the Swedish dance act to weigh in on the subject matter. "One should not be silent about such things," Loreen said.

But her convincing win clearly turned her thoughts to the taste of victory as the show ended with her thanking the beautiful hosts.

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