Britain`s Got Talent Betting

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The programme known as “Britain’s Got Talent” (BGT) was launched in 2007 on ITV, but it became internationally famous almost overnight when its search for hidden talent discovered singing sensation Susan Boyle in 2009. The unassuming amateur proved to the world just how deceiving appearances can be by belting out a rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables that left judges and audiences breathless. That year, which was the third in the show’s history, the season premier reached some 11.9 million viewers and the YouTube version of Boyle’s audition received over 100 million hits.

What was perhaps most surprising about BGT Season 3, however, was that Boyle did not win the top prize in the end. Despite all the buzz, hype, and predictions of stardom, the 48-year-old Scottish vocalist came in runner-up to a London-based street dance troupe called Diversity, leading to windfall profits worth millions to U.K. bookmakers. A representative from william hill indicated that over £3 million was bet on the show in its final hour, most of it on Boyle as “a certainty.”

Britain’s Got Talent differs from many television talent competitions in that it accepts entries from all genres, not just those related to music. Magicians, comedians, jugglers, mimes, animal acts, daredevils, contortionists, acrobats, and others compete head-to-head with singers, dancers, and musicians. Solo artists go against groups of entertainers. And neither are there any age limits. It is the most open of all talent competitions, which in turn makes it extremely difficult to judge.

For the first four seasons, English producer Simon Cowell, Irish journalist Piers Morgan, and English actress Amanda Holden sat in the judges’ seats. In season 5, American singer/actor David Hasselhoff and English comedian Michael McIntyre joined the panel, as Morgan left. Their role is to whittle down the competition to a manageable number of contestants, whereupon audience voting determines who is eliminated week by week and who remains.

Auditions are conducted in front of the judges and live audiences at different cities across Britain, starting in April. To move on at this stage, contestants must receive a majority of the judges’ votes and about 200 acts make it through to the next phase—deselecting. Following the auditions, the judges have to eliminate all but 40 of the survivors. Those who are called back are invited to perform in the live semi-finals, which are broadcast from Fountain Studios in Wembley.

Viewers’ votes decide the top acts from each of the four semi-finals that will participate in the live final. Judges provide comments, which may influence the voters’ choices, and they also choose a runner-up from each semi-final to move on, making eight finalists in total. All other acts are eliminated from the competition.

The season 1 winner, English pop opera tenor Paul Potts, went on to record two top ten albums. Season 2’s champion was street dancer George Sampson, and Season 4 saw gymnastic troupe Spelbound take top honours. Other finalists have done quite well post-BGT, including Boyle with two #1 albums and three other singers with albums selling more than 100,000 copies—Andrew Johnston, Connie Talbot, and the electronic string quartet known as Escala.

Ante post betting on the outright winner gets under way almost as soon as the 200 contenders are known, but it hots up in earnest after the semi-finalists are announced. Betting is heaviest on the final match-up of eight acts, when optional wagers on Gender of Winner, Top Man, Top Woman, Top 3 Finish, To Make The Final, and To Be Eliminated, among others.

In 2010, High Street bookmakers Coral reported one of their “biggest gambles in reality TV history.” Money was being staked heavily in small amounts on piano-playing comedian Kev Orkian at odds between 100/1 and 80/1. Then, as the odds dropped as low as 9/1, the shorter prices began attracting three figure bets. Coral dodged a bullet when the former long-shot failed to make the finals. Winner Spelbound paid just 2/1.

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