In the early 90's, the interest in the ever popular Swedish national final started plummeting. Not so much when it came down to ratings, but suddenly nobody who was anybody wanted to be associated with the show anymore.
After several attempts (some more successful than others) to revitalise the contest, SVT decided to play it big in 2002. They launched the current format with a big tour, four semi finals held in different cities throughout the country and a high profile final held in the Globe in Stockholm, home of the Eurovision Song Contest 2000.
As the show is about to go out on the road for the tenth time this year, one can only conclude that the gamble has been a huge success. Melodifestivalen is a real powerhouse in Swedish showbiz as it creates some 10 - 15 major hit singles per year and hasn't only launched brilliant careers but also helped already established names to reach larger audiences.
If you are in Melodifestivalen, you are somebody. You can go on tour, and people will probably buy your songs in a day when record sales in general are on a disastrously low level.
There's only one little cloud on the Swedish sky. While very successful on home ground, the new system has failed completely when it comes to the ESC itself. Sweden, who used to be a super power with good placing most years, has slipped down and lost its crown.
Out of the nine entries selected with the current system, four have made top ten and five have flopped.
Mind you - the Swedish press considered the results of 2002 and 2006 as disappointing. I doubt they would today.
The people at SVT are of course not happy about this, and the 2011 edition is full of adjustments to make this year's entry more appetising for the european viewers. The national juries are replaced by pan-european ones and quite a lot of power has been taken out of the hands of the Swedish televoters.
Maybe the Swedes will be slightly unhappy if their own favourite won't win the national final in March, but they will certainly be very forgiving if this is compensated by an impressive showing in Düsseldorf.
Let the games begin - the Swedish semis start on Saturday.