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Tamta of Cyprus performs during the Grand Final of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest .(Photo by: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Netflix buys rights to screen 2019 Eurovision from Tel Aviv
By HANNAH BROWN
07/22/2019
The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv was won by Netherlands with the song “Arcade,” performed by Duncan Laurence.
Although once few Americans had even heard of Eurovision, in this increasingly globalized world, the song contest has picked up fans all over and there is no more telling sign of its universal popularity than the fact that Netflix, the streaming service, bought US V.O.D. rights to show the 2019 competition and to broadcast the 2020 contest.

The 2019 contest became available on US Netflix V.O.D. on Monday. Viewers can watch two semi-finals and the finals.
This year’s Eurovision took place in May in Tel Aviv, since it is held in the country of the previous year’s winner, and Israeli Netta Barzilai won in 2018 with her song Toy. The 2020 competition will take place in the Netherlands, the home of Duncan Laurence, who won this year with the song Arcade.

Netflix has also announced it is producing a movie set at Eurovision, a comedy starring and co-written by Will Ferrell, which will co-star Rachel McAdams.

Eurovision is the world’s largest non-sporting live television event and the most watched live entertainment TV program in Europe, with about 200 million viewers worldwide each year. It was started in 1956 to bring countries together for peaceful competition and entertainment. Viewers vote for their favorites, but must vote for songs from other countries, not their own.

The contest is especially popular in Israel because it was one of the first major non-sporting competitions in which Israel could compete, and also since Israel has done so well in it. Israel began competing in 1973, with a more than-respectable fourth-place finish for Ilanit. Israel then won in 1978, with A-Ba-Ni-Bi by Izhar Cohen and Alphabeta, and in 1979 with Hallelujah by Milk and Honey. Arab countries blacked out the Israeli singers and Jordan even announced in 1978 that the winner was Belgium, the country that came in second.

In spite of this, Israel continued to do well in the contest, with second-place finishes for Avi Toledano and Ofra Haza in 1982 and 1983.

Israel’s third Eurovision win came in 1998 with the song Diva by Dana International, an outspoken transsexual at a time when gender identity was rarely discussed in Israel. The next 20 years were lean times for Israelis at Eurovision until Barzilai had her breakthrough last year in Lisbon.

The Eurovision finals, with their over-the-top costumes and dance moves, have long been embraced by the gay community, both in Israel and around the world, long before Dana International’s win. Eytan Fox even made Cupcakes, a 2013 film about a group of Israeli friends who compose a song together that becomes Israel’s entry into an international songfest, although Eurovision declined to give its blessing and the contest in the movie is dubbed Universong. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post when the film was released, he reminisced about what Eurovision meant to him.

“There’s this pop side of me. I had this connection to Eurovision growing up,” Fox said, recalling how his mother would invite their neighbors, many of whom did not own a TV, to watch the Eurovision finals at their Jerusalem apartment.

“She would serve Coke, which we usually had only on Friday nights,” he said. “It was a different time, when we all knew our neighbors... I asked my mother why Israel was in Eurovision if we’re not in Europe, and she said, ‘We’re a small country surrounded by enemies’” that wouldn’t be allowed into regional competitions.

Like so many Israelis, Eurovision is a lifelong passion for Fox.

JTA contributed to this story


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