BERLIN — Europeans across the continent tuned in en masse this weekend to witness Azerbaijani duo Ell and Nikki win the Eurovision Song Contest.
With their song “Running Scared,” Ell and Nikki — Eldar Gasimov and Nigar Jamal — unseated German thrush Lena Meyer-Landrut, who sought to defend her title, and also beat U.K. boy band Blue and Irish X Factor sensation Jedward (John and Edward Grimes).
In Germany, the European Song Contest became the most watched show of the year, beating past highs set by German soccer tournaments and crime drama “Tatort,” the country’s most-watched weekly series.
Some 13.8 million viewers tuned in to pubcaster ARD to watch Meyer-Landrut, last year’s champ, in her unconventional attempt to compete a second time in the contest, but end up in 10th place.
Broadcast live from Duesseldorf, the Eurovision Song Contest gave ARD a 49.3% share among all auds and a 59.1% in the key 14 to 49 demo.
Despite the record numbers, viewership in Germany was down by nearly a million viewers from last year, when some 14.7 million watched the show, broadcast live from Oslo.
Local press reports have blamed the waning interest on “Lena fatigue.”
Indeed, the show has remained a guaranteed hit since its introduction in the 1950s as a platform for new and diverse pop acts. While Meyer- Landrut’s attempt at a second win won the support of pubcaster ARD and commercial partner ProSieben, for many viewers it also stripped away much of the spontaneity and originality of the contest by forgoing a new German act.
In the U.K., the show proved a winner for BBC1, where its peaked with nearly 13 million viewers, the Eurovision Song Contest’s biggest audience for at least a decade. The program averaged 9.5 million viewers, a 40.4% share of the audience between 8 p.m. and 11.30 p.m. on Saturday.
The show’s average audience was nearly double the 5.5 million that watched last year’s contest, which peaked with 7.8 million. The contest’s previous highest audience on U.K. TV in the last 10 years was the 8.7 million (and 10.9 million peak) in 2007.
The contest also led Saturday’s TV ratings in Spain. Broadcast by pubcaster TVE’s web La 1, from 9.00 p.m. to 12.28 a.m., the Eurovision special averaged 4.7 million viewers and a 32.3% share, peaking at 6.7 million eyeballs and a 42% share, according to Barlovento Comunicacion.
This year’s edition, however, was the least-watched Eurovision contest in Spain in four years. Compared with the 2010 edition, the show lost more than a million viewers and nine share points.
Local observers reckoned the Spanish song, by singer Lucia Perez, was never seen as a favorite going into the contest finished in 23rd place, ahead of only Estonia and Switzerland.
After 13 years off Italian television, “Eurovision” returned with a bang to Rai2 as Italy’s Rafael Gualazzi swept to second place. Ratings were ho-hum however, according to Auditel, with an average of 1.29 million viewers and a 6.43% share. Italy’s “Got Talent” on Mediaset’s Canale5 won the night with 4.75 million viewers and a 23.5% share.
In Austria, which came in 18th place, an average of 1.1 million viewers watched the show on ORF, resulting in a peak share of 61% for the pubcaster.
Next year’s contest will take place in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku.
Emiliano de Pablos and Jill Goldsmith contributed to this report.