Brian Walsh reveals: Free TVs and Daily Mirror saved second Neighbours axing

Brian Walsh

Then taking Jason, Kylie, Guy, Annie and Pete O’Brien into Westfields sealed the deal

Among the people visiting the Neighbours set during its last week of filming were Foxtel’s Brian Walsh and 10’s Rick Maier.

Both were involved in getting Neighbours to air. Maier, head of drama and executive production at 10, worked on the series during his time at Grundy’s earlier in his career and then again during his two stints at Network 10.

Although Foxtel executive director of television Walsh hasn’t been working on the show since he started at Foxtel in 1995, he remains close to the team and the talent.

Rick Maier, Brian Walsh and Neighbours EP Jason Harbison last week. Top photo: Peter O’Brien, Brian Walsh, Rick Maier and Guy Pearce

Recalling how he first became involved with the soap, Walsh told Mediaweek: “I was the head of publicity for TEN and the then MD of the network, George Brown, called me to his office to inform me of the brash move to take the show from Channel 7 in a bid to solve our 7pm problem, which was a wasteland with endless repeats of M*A*S*H.

“I vividly recall that meeting and the brief – make Neighbours work at whatever the cost!

“To be honest, it was an uphill battle. Neighbours found an audience in Melbourne, but we couldn’t move the needle in Sydney.”

The GM of TEN was getting impatient!

Walsh continued: “After an intensive three-month campaign, the ratings sagged. I was re-called to the boss’ office and told I had four weeks. Make Neighbours work or it would go. The show would be axed for a second time.

“In my heart, I felt that we could make this show work. I knew it had a following, especially with teens.

“I had been trained in radio promotions, so I went back to the drawing board and created a major consumer promotion and launched a competition giveaway of 1000 TV sets. It was called ‘Nominate Your Neighbour’ and where we gave away hundreds of TVs to households across the country.

“I had the young cast, Jason, Kylie, Guy, Annie, Pete O’Brien, literally door knock houses around Australia handing out free TVs…the reaction was incredible.”

The next part of the campaign was to take the young cast to meet the public.

Brian Walsh

Jason and Kylie make a shopping centre appearance for Neighbours

“I then started organising appearances at shopping malls in every major city to give away T-shirts and various merchandise. I ensured that those appearances were filmed and I then sent the tape to every newspaper editor in the country to promote the fact that their was an incredible groundswell of support for the show.

“To his credit, the editor of Sydney’s Daily Mirror, Roy Miller, called me and said, “Thanks, I’ve received your tape. I took it home and showed it to my 16-year-old daughter and she told me, ‘Dad, all the kids at school love Neighbours.’

The challenge he gave me was to come up with a promotable front page photo story to publicise the show.

“That was the turning point. I had to give Roy Miller that ‘photo moment’ and I did. As they say, the rest is history.”

The Daily Mirror front page from 1986 was a turning point in reaching a wider audience

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