Saturday, December 09, 2006

X Factor Semi Final Update

All is now quiet in the jungle, however the betting forums remain alive with the chatter of the implications of Matt Willis' shock victory in I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Punters that missed the Leona train have now been given hope that the polls can be dramatically overruled, and that maybe she too could fall foul to the Matt Willis effect.

Regular readers of Special Bets will know that we learn our lessons perhaps not in the easiest way, but learn them we do. As we approach the Semi Final of the X Factor with Leona untouchable in the polls, it seems like a good opportunity to review some of the finer points of using polling data to bet on Reality TV markets.

Firstly, lets catch up on what the polls are saying this week about the remaining X Factor contestants:

The only surprise that the data above holds for us is the strong showing for Ray on the Internet Forum, suggesting that this poll has been targetted by voters with an agenda this week.

So we see Leona holding on to what seems an unassailable lead with only two weeks to go, and a very close call between Ray and Ben for second place. But what are the polls not telling us? Some of the points below may seem obvious, but are also often overlooked:

1. All polls are subject to sampling error. Some have a higher error than others, but the decent polls can be assumed to have an error of around +/- 3%.
2. This is the polling landscape now, and if used to gamble on markets such as the outright, then some consideration needs to be given to possible events before the event concludes. For Reality TV shows, this mainly consists of swings in sentiment during the live shows.
3. There are certain groups that can be omitted from polling data. In the case of Matt Willis, there is an argument that the teenage fanbase of Busted were never represented in the polls, which contributed to their inaccuracies.
4. The polls should not just be taken as a snapshot of sentiment, but also used to identify trends in sentiment over time.

Bearing the above points in mind, let's take a look at what the markets are saying about the current X Factor contestants and compare this to the polls. Given we only have two shows left, we can use the current implied probabilites to calculate what the market's view on the elimination this evening, and the likely winner of the final. This is summarised below:

Unless you believe there is a subversive fanbase for either Ben or Ray that is not showing up in the polls, tonight's elimination candidate looks to be coming from these two. The polls are telling us that there is not much to choose between these two at the moment, however the market seems to think that Ray is in more danger this evening.

However, comparing the polls to last week, it is Ray that has the momentum at the moment, almost doubling his following from 11.8% to 21.1%. Ben however has remained relatively stable going from 22.1% to 24.1%.

This would suggest that right now, notwithstanding the huge swings that can occur due to the quality of performances this evening, Ray should be on a more even footing with Ben on the Elimination front. Indeed, if Ray does make it through to the final, his momentum should increase even further. Readjusting the above figures for this gives the following:

In short, there is no compelling evidence to explain why Ray should be favourite over Ben to go tonight going into the show. A possible explanation for this is that the markets are pricing in anti-Ray comments from Louis this evening, who was quoted this week saying "There remains two great contestants who can win this show, and one OK contestant". He was most likely referring to Ray as the "OK" contestant, based on his "one-trick pony" comments that plagued Ray in the mid-section of the series. However, with Leona warbling another Whitney tune and Ben going back to his rock roots this evening, it could be argued that Ray is the only remaining contestant that has actually digested and adapted to the judge's critisisms.

We're not saying Ray is safe this evening, we're just saying that its 50/50 between Ray and Ben to be eliminated. On that basis, we'll be taking the trade of laying Ray and backing Ben in the elimination markets looking to take profits before Kate wields the axe.

Good Luck