The big news stories allow news-gathering organisations the chance to show their value as the go-to source of news and current affairs. While most significant news stories are generally unexpected, a pre-determined event such as tomorrow’s election allows the TV news broadcasters to package their wares and demonstrate their prowess.

Tomorrow, each of the networks has invested heavily in its election coverage, seeing this as a significant branding opportunity. With high-profile guests and whiz-bang graphic packages, the networks are doing their best to lure viewers. With every network running election coverage, how do you decide who gets your attention?

The simple truth is that on election night most interested viewers will channel surf between the coverage. They’ll likely settle a few minutes longer on channels that offer the most aesthetically pleasing graphic packages (or novelties such as Channel 9’s CGI Parliament) while votes are still being counted. As soon as there’s a result, the channel flicking will end as they’ll all be running the same footage (albeit with slightly different camera angles).

Here’s what the networks have planned:


Start time: 6pm
Political guru: Election analyst Antony Green
Panel: Nick Minchin, Stephen Smith, Penny Wong, George Brandos, and Bob Brown.
Point of difference: The broadcast starts at 6pm, but we’ll see the only FTA coverage of the campaign throughout the day. Chris Ulhmann will join Julia Gillard in Melbourne, while Mark Simkin will join Tony Abbott in Sydney.


Start time: 5pm
Hosts: David Koch and Melissa Doyle
Political guru: Mark Riley
Panel: Peter Beattie, Alexander Downer, Scott Morrison, Mal Brough, Tanya Plibersek, and Graham Richardson.
Network media release words of wisdom: “Panellists on election night should be well-informed and entertaining. All our experts meet both benchmarks in spades.” — Peter Meakin (Ch7 director of news and current affairs.)
Point of difference: For those away from the telly, the audience can follow the results by way of SMS. SMS your postcode to 0450 MYVOTE (0450 698 683). Standard SMS rates apply.


Start time: 5pm
Hosts: Lisa Wilkinson and Karl Stefanovic
Political guru: Laurie Oakes
Panel: Mark Arbib, Peter Costello, Nicola Roxon, Michael Kroger, Christine Wallace, Barnaby Joyce
Network media release words of wisdom: “This election is on a knife edge, so bringing our viewers fast and accurate results will be essential. Laurie Oakes has had a terrific campaign and his analysis will make for compelling viewing. With Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson hosting, we believe Nine has the best possible lineup for an historic election night.”
Point of difference: Tracey Grimshaw will be reporting from Melbourne with PM Julia Gillard, while Peter Overton will be reporting from Sydney with leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott.


Election special
Start time: 6pm
Hosts: Bill Woods and Paul Bongiorno
Political guru: Paul Bongiorno, with Hugh Rimmington in the tally room.

The election project
Start time: 6:30pm
Hosts: Carrie Bickmore, Charlie Pickering, Dave Hughes and George Negus.
Political guru: George Negus
Panel: Beyond the hosts, Tom Gleeson and Scott Dooley are doing live crosses. Also, Sophie Black from Crikey will be offering insight.
Point of difference: Counter-programming against the serious election coverage, Ten is strengthening the 7PM Project brand with this effort.


Start time: 8:30pm
Host: Anton Enus
Political guru:Karen Middleton
Panel: Prof John Warhurst, Bob McMullan, and Bruce Baird.
Point of difference: SBS is starting its coverage considerably later than the other broadcasters, kicking-off as the results the election should be airing.


Start time: 5:30pm
Hosts: David Speers, Kieran Gilbert, Ashleigh Gillon, David Lipson, Helen Dalley, and Peter Van Onselen.
Panel: Bob Hawke, John Hewson, Eric Abetz, Penny Wong, Tony Burke, Fiona Nash, Bruce Hawker, and Grahame Morris.
Point of difference: Sky News multiview will offer eight split-screens of video and text coverage, along with dedicated Labor and Coalition channels. Sky News will also be made available for free via a seven-satellite network to make the broadcast available to 98% of the world. Sky will also offer exclusive Auspoll exit poll results.


AFL: Swans vs Bulldogs (Ch10, 7:30pm), Once Upon A Time In The West (ABC2, 8:30pm), Spiral (SBS2, 8:30pm), Wedding Crashers (Go!, 8:30pm)