Australia: your wildcard is ready.

From the press release:

Australia to compete in the Grand Final of the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest

SBS is thrilled to announce that the network has secured the opportunity for Australia to compete in the 60th Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Vienna, Austria. This spectacular moment in Australian television history will be broadcast from Wednesday May 20 to Sunday May 24.

The deal is a result of SBS’s ambition to increase Australia’s presence at Eurovision following the success of Jessica Mauboy’s performance last year in Denmark. Australia’s enthusiasm for the contest has been embraced by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the 2015 host broadcaster ORF who have invited SBS to send an artist to compete as a wild card entry for 2015 in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the contest.

This year as Australia is an official competitor, the Australian public will be eligible to vote in the contest for the very first time.* This, along with a pre-selected Australian jury, will help determine the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest winner.

The Australian artist will perform to a peak international television audience of around 195 million people in the grand final on Saturday May 23 in Vienna at Wiener Stadthalle arena, which will be broadcast as a live feed in Australia on Sunday morning and then on Sunday evening on SBS ONE, hosted by Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang.

SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid said: “We are very excited to have secured this historic opportunity for Australia to be represented on the world’s biggest stage at the 60th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest and are honoured that the European Broadcasting Union has supported us to achieve this ambition. SBS has been broadcasting Eurovision for over 30 years and we have seen how Australians’ love of the song contest has grown during those years. Jessica Mauboy’s performance last year was a truly momentous occasion and achievement. This year we are thrilled to be advancing our involvement by sending an Australian artist to compete for the first time, and presenting Australia with our first opportunity to vote in the contest.”

Executive Supervisior of the Eurovision Song Contest Jon Ola Sand said on behalf of the EBU: “At the very heart of the Eurovision Song Contest is the importance of bringing countries together to celebrate diversity, music and culture. We have admired and respected SBS’s support of the contest for many years now and wanted to extend the invitation for Australia to join us in this special 60th anniversary.”

SBS Chief Content Officer Helen Kellie said: “Eurovision is a pillar of our annual content strategy. It epitomises SBS’s celebration of diversity and point of difference in our content offering, creating inspired, compelling and engaging event television that unites the nation and gets people talking. This next step in the evolution of Eurovision in Australia allows SBS to build on its world class reputation as an industry leader in delivering multi-platform broadcasting led by our eurovisionaries Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang.

“Our production partners Blink TV Australia will once again work with us in delivering an exceptional entertainment experience for Australian audiences, who will no doubt follow the competition even more closely now that we are competing. This exciting news is the first in a series of announcements which SBS will unveil in the coming months, including the big question everyone will be asking: which Australian artist will be representing us on stage in Vienna?”

The Eurovision Song Contest has been broadcast on SBS for over 30 years and is one of the biggest events on the SBS calendar. Last year’s coverage achieved the highest ratings for the broadcast since the OzTAM ratings began in 2001, reaching over three million Australians.
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Notes to Editors
SBS Eurovision host Julia Zemiro says: “Sam Pang and I have witnessed some pretty incredible Eurovision performances over the years from Conchita’s perfectly groomed beard, to the Russian grannies, but having an Australian compete on the world’s biggest stage is going to be the best douze points moment of this year’s contest. Am I biased? Yes. I can’t wait to get to Vienna and be part of this momentous 60th anniversary celebration.”

SBS Eurovision host Sam Pang says: “The theme for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is building bridges and I’ve always fancied myself as an engineering man. This bridge we’ve built from Australia to Austria is really quite something. This is going to be such a big moment for Australia to show Europe just what we are capable of, and more importantly, for us to beat the UK.”

The opportunity for Australia to increase its involvement in Eurovision has been pursued by SBS and its production partner Blink TV over the last few years, as the popularity of the song contest continues to grow in Australia.

In 2014 The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and host broadcaster DR extended an invitation for Australia to send a guest artist to perform as an interval act in the second semi-final and Jessica Mauboy performed her original song ‘Sea of Flags’. This year the EBU and Austrian host broadcaster ORF have extended the invitation for Australia to compete as a wild card entry for this special 60th anniversary of the contest.

Blink TV Australia, led by award winning writer and director Paul Clarke, have been producing Eurovision with Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang for SBS since 2009 and their strong partnership with SBS has successfully made Eurovision a must watch television event for Australian audiences. Eurovision is an opportunity for SBS to continue to lead the way in multi-platform event viewing, with extensive coverage across television, online and radio as well as live social media integration into the broadcast. Last year the #SBSEurovision hashtag averaged over 1000 tweets per minute. *Details about how Australia votes are currently under negotiation with the EBU’s international televoting partner and Australian telecom operators.