Sixty-one songs have won the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual competition organised by member countries of the European Broadcasting Union. The contest, which has been broadcast every year since its debut in 1956, is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world. The contest's winner has been determined using numerous voting techniques throughout its history; centre to these have been the awarding of points to countries by juries or televoters. The country awarded the most points is declared the winner. The first Eurovision Song Contest was not won on points, but by votes (two per country), and only the winner was announced.
There have been 58 contests, with one winner each year except the tied 1969 contest, which had four. Twenty-six different countries have won the contest. Switzerland won the first contest in 1956. The country with the highest number of wins is Ireland, with seven. Portugal is the country with the longest history in the contest without a win; it made its forty-sixth appearance at the 2012 contest. The only person to have won more than once as performer is Ireland's Johnny Logan, who performed "What's Another Year" in 1980 and "Hold Me Now" in 1987. Logan is also one of only five songwriters to have written more than one winning entry ("Hold Me Now" 1987 and "Why Me?" 1992, performed by Linda Martin). This unique distinction makes Logan the only person to have three Eurovision victories to his/her credit, as either singer, songwriter or both. The other four songwriters with more than one winning entry to their credit are, Willy van Hemert (Netherlands, 1957 and 1959), Yves Dessca (Monaco, 1971 and Luxembourg, 1972), Rolf Løvland (Norway, 1985 and 1995) and Brendan Graham (Ireland, 1994 and 1996).
Winning the Eurovision Song Contest provides a unique opportunity for the winning artist(s) to capitalise on their success and surrounding publicity by launching or furthering their international career. However, throughout the history of the contest, relatively few of these artists have gone on to be huge international stars. The most notable winning Eurovision artists whose career was directly launched into the spotlight following their win were the members of ABBA, who won the 1974 contest for Sweden with their song "Waterloo." ABBA went on to be one of the most successful bands of its time. Another notable winner who subsequently achieved international fame and success was Céline Dion, who won the 1988 contest for Switzerland with the song "Ne partez pas sans moi."
Eleven Eurovision winners (alongside three non-winners) featured at the Congratulations concert in 2005, in which ABBA's "Waterloo" was voted the most popular song of the contest's first fifty years.
Ireland has finished first seven times, more than any other country, Ireland also won the contest for three consecutive years (1992, 1993, 1994), more consecutive years than any other country. Three countries have won twice in a row, Spain (1968 and 1969), Luxembourg (1972 and 1973) and Israel (1978 and 1979). Apart from Switzerland's win in the first contest, Serbia is the only country to win with its debut entry (in 2007). Since the introduction of the current voting system in 1975, the winner of the contest has been decided by the final voting nation on eleven occasions.[N 4] The largest margin of victory was that of Alexander Rybak in 2009, who won by 169 points. Rybak won with 387 points, a record score, winning twelve points from sixteen out of 41 countries (excluding themselves). Although Alexander Rybak holds the record of the highest number of points in the contest's history, Loreen, the Swedish winner of 2012 broke Rybak's title of the most twelve points earned by a country. Loreen gained twelve points from eighteen out of 41 countries (excluding themselves). Also, with the current voting system, the lowest score is 123 points, accomplished by Norway in 1985, with the song "La Det Swinge" by the duo Bobbysocks. The lowest total is the eighteen points scored by the four winning countries in 1969.
The United Kingdom has finished second fifteen times at Eurovision (most recently in 1998), more than any other country. The most successful country never to have won the Contest is Malta, having finished second in 2002 and 2005 and third in 1992 and 1998.
^Since 2004 the contest has included a televised semi-final. In 2004 this was held on the Wednesday before the final, and between 2005 and 2007 it was held on the Thursday of "Eurovision Week". Since 2008 two semi-finals have been held, on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.
^Since 2008 the contest has included two semi-finals, held on the Tuesday and Thursday before the final.