What if...? or "The Ones That Got Away..."

Potentially a new thread which I perhaps haven’t really thought through…

But there have been lots of “wrong turns” in history, and you wonder “what if…” a different decision was made at that critical time.

e.g. A new show is offered to one network. They knock it back. It goes elsewhere and becomes huge.

Neighbours is the obvious one, picked up by Seven and then Ten. But it was offered first to Nine, who declined. Given Nine’s track record for dramas in the '80s was not great, it was probably not a bad thing for Neighbours not to begin there.

Some others…

The Sullivans was first proposed by Crawford Productions to Seven. Seven said no. Nine later approached Crawfords wanting a new drama. Crawfords dusted off the original proposal for The Sullivans, re-badged it with a Nine logo, and it became a hit for the next 6 years and sold well overseas.

Rove, a more recent example. Nine ran it for a short-run late-night series. They didn’t take it any further. It went to Ten and became a hit as Rove Live and then sparked a whole lot of Rove titles for the network including The Project, skitHouse, Real Stories, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader and Before The Game.

You wonder how history might have played out had those initial decisions by network execs been different…


The most recent example has to be The Voice. Ten was in negotiations with Talpa to produce an Australian version, only to have the show picked up by Nine. I think this was part of the reason Ten fell into financial trouble which eventually led to the network being bought by CBS.


Likewise I seem to recall that Nine was initially interested in Big Brother the first time around but Ten ended up getting it.


Wasn’t Simon Towsend’s Wonder World set for another network before 0-10 picked it up?

From a Sydney TV news perspective (something which myself and @MasterMind5991 have talked about a lot), surely Nine would be thinking that they could’ve done a better job at positioning the service for the 2000s/post-Hendo era?

In particular, I’ve sometimes wondered what the ratings would’ve been like if Nine decided that Ian Ross was a better newsreader than Jim Waley to succeed Brian Henderson in 2002. Would Seven News have still eventually made it to #1 in the Sydney ratings with another stint of Ann Sanders presenting the bulletin solo (presuming that Ross Symonds was always going to step down after 2003)? Or Chris Bath?

Mind you, I’d probably be fairly confident to predict that Peter Overton was for a long time (possibly even as far back as the Late 1990s when he was the first presenter of National Nine Morning News and started to become a regular fill-in news/sports presenter for Sydney) destined to eventually become the lead anchor of a Sydney TV news bulletin. I don’t think Pete would’ve been in the running to succeed Hendo in 2002 though because he was 36 years old back then, had only been reporting on 60 Minutes for a couple of years and probably needed some more time to build his reporting profile at the stopwatch before moving back to news presenting.


Another case: the state of news and current affairs in Queensland.

In 2006, Nine News won the Brisbane news battle quite comfortably, but it was to be rocked by a turn of unfortunate events soon after:

  • First, long-time weatherman John Schluter quit the station just short of what would’ve been his 25th anniversary with the network. He would then be snapped up by Seven News, which needed an experienced weatherman to boost their ratings. Schluter was replaced on QTQ by Joseph May, who only lasted one year, and then Frank Warrick who lasted less than twelve months in 2008, before settling on then-NBN weatherman Garry Youngberry in 2009.
  • Second, sports presenter Wally Lewis suffered from two separate fits of epilepsy in November 2006, leading to him temporarily stepping down from his role (once, Bruce Paige had to finish off the sports segment, I can’t remember which of 16/11/2006 or 30/11/2006 it was). During his time off air, Ian Healy and Steve Haddan would regularly share the presenting duties. Lewis would return to his post in 2009, though he did weekends in 2007/08.
  • Also around this time, then-Today newsreader Sharyn Ghidella left Channel Nine to return home to Brisbane, where she was also snapped up by Seven News.

The recruitments of Schluter and Ghidella (and, to some extent, the appointment of then-recently retired Brisbane Broncos player Shane Webcke as their new weeknight sports presenter) helped to boost Seven News’ ratings in south-east Queensland, but what if Nine Brisbane had done enough to keep Schluter and/or Ghidella?


I can also think of Fairfax’s takeover of Seven in the mid 1980s before Warwick Fairfax’s disastrous privatisation plan. If not for the cost cutting measures Fairfax made during the period, Seven Melbourne would not have lost the VFL broadcast rights in 1987, Mal Walden would not have been sacked as a newsreader and World of Sport would not have been axed.


A huge name that got away from Seven Brisbane in the early noughties was Melissa Downes.

Downes started her media career at Channel Seven in the late 1990s and was primarily a back-up presenter and host of a short-lived magazine show which aired prior to Seven News in 2000.

Knowing she would never succeed Kay McGrath as Seven’s primary female newsreader, she joined Channel Nine in late 2001 and by 2006 she started presenting weekend news before being promoted to weeknight presenter in 2009.

Here is a short clip of Downes presenting a Seven News Brisbane update in 1998:

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Seven actually lost the VFL rights just prior to Fairfax taking it over but I imagine they wouldn’t have wanted it anyway.


the original pilot was made by Seven but they didn’t pick it up. He then made another pilot, independently, and initially nothing happened. Then the “C” classification was coming into effect, 0-10 needed a show to fulfil the criteria and Wonder World was picked up.


I wasn’t aware of that aspect of the show’s history. I wonder if The Sullivans would still have had that iconic Geoff Harvey composed theme music if it had made it to Seven?

1976 was a horror year in the ratings for Nine. They were running third towards the end of that year. That would’ve been the impetus for Packer to go on a spending spree securing broadcast rights to Australian cricket, launching The Sullivans and The Young Doctors, luring Paul Hogan back from Seven for a series of specials on a half million dollar contract, luring Mike Walsh from Ten for daytime and signing Don Lane and Jimmy Hannan.


Probably explains why in '77, Nine was asking their viewers to “Let Us Be The One”.

some of the staff Channel 10 have let loose in cost cutting and in general, Jana, Laurie Oakes, Ann Sanders, Deb Knight. If they had some of that talent still there, there news might still rate OK.


It still baffles me that the 0-10 network let Mike Walsh get away after the investment they had made in him. They built his profile significantly during 1976 by having him present a series of prime time specials from the USA to celebrate that country’s Bicentennial. Walsh managed to secure some huge Hollywood stars to appear on those shows.

Mike Walsh’s contract came up for renewal at the end of 1976. Ten had the chance to secure his talents but the terms were unsatisfactory to him. Nine made him an offer and Walsh, whose production company made the show, took his team of writers, researchers, producers and regular contributors with him to Nine.

TEN 's management in Sydney went into crisis mode and resolved to maintain a presence at midday in 1977 with a new show, a new host and a healthy budget. Brian Adams, a personality who’d had success on the network years before, was signed up to a lucrative contract and his show Adams After Noon went head to head against The Mike Walsh Show in early February 1977. It was a massacre. By Friday of that first week Channel 0 in Melbourne informed TEN-10 they would no longer carry the show due to the abysmal ratings it was achieving. TEN made the decision to drop the show altogether the following Monday and schedule films.

Ten always did have a problem keeping their top talent happy and away from competitors.


All the networks have stars they wish they kept a hold of, e.g: ABC loosing Chris Masters, Kerry O’Brien, Geraldine Doogue, Max Walsh (Business Week) and Maxine Mckew to 10 from 1988-89. This forum thread could name them all.


Probably not. Though, he didn’t compose that for The Sullivans, anyway. It was originally composed for an adults-only soap that Nine and Grundys did a pilot, Two-Way Mirror, which was supposed to be a potential rival to Number 96. It starred Cornelia Frances, Jill Forster and Brisbane theatre actress Babette Stephens but never eventuated to a series. But the theme tune lived on for The Sullivans with some minor adjustments.


YouTube: DPWW1

I don’t know about Sydney, but in Melbourne its news was also getting a thrashing by Seven after the failed News Centre 9 experiment. GTV tried shifting its news to 6.00 to get a half-hour head start on Seven, but that didn’t last long and the news was soon shifted back to 6.30. They got Eric Pearce out of retirement to read the news alongside Peter Hitchener, and even he couldn’t get Nine out of the mess.

I think a big selling point for Walsh to go to Nine was the chance to go live, whereas at Ten the show was apparently pre-recorded.

In the show’s shift to Nine, Jeanne Little instead went to Seven but she didn’t have much luck there, so she soon reunited with Mike Walsh at Nine.


Following the axing of The Box and Number 96, The 0-10 Network was at a bit of a loss.

You’ve ruined that forever for me. All those wholesome images that theme evoked no longer apply.

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they were heading that way even before those shows got axed. As popular and successful as both shows were at their peak, they clearly had a use-by date especially once the thrill of on-screen nudity wore off and nobody got outraged by it anymore. They at least had some wins with Roots and Blankety Blanks in 1977 and then Prisoner was a big hit. In Sydney, I think Ten had rugby league as well?

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