Brian Walsh says Foxtel’s drama strategy is not a number’s game: ‘Less is more’


But don’t mention the TV Week Logies! Walsh and Mercado on Neighbours and how to improve TV awards show

As the dust was settling on the 2022 TV Week Logies, the latest Mediaweek podcast spoke with two TV veterans who were in the room.

Brian Walsh has been with Foxtel for 27 years and before that worked as a publicist including time spent running Channel 10 publicity.

Andrew Mercado is a Mediaweek columnist and podcaster who has spent time behind and in front of the camera before he started writing about TV for The Sunday Telegraph, TV Week and now Mediaweek.


Foxtel’s Brian Walsh and Mediaweek’s Andrew Mercado


Listen to the Mediaweek podcast featuring Brian Walsh with Mediaweek’s Andrew Mercado and James Manning. Subscribe or follow to get alert each time we publish a new episode of the ultimate TV insiders podcast. Now weekly with bonus episodes too.
Listen online here.
Via the LiSTNR app or on your favourite podcast platform.


The podcast covered far more than the Logies though. The conversation started with Walsh talking about his new Foxtel agreement.

“This is my 27th year I’ve been involved with Foxtel,” Brian Walsh told Mediaweek. “I was part of the pioneering management team in 1995 that launched the service. I joined the company back then as a consultant because I still had my own promotions business going.

“For the first 12 months it was all about launching pay television into the Australian market. Those days we were in competition with Galaxy and Optus Vision. Sam Chisholm [former Foxtel chair, director and consultant] at the time said we need to find a program director. I kept going back to Sam with names from the industry. He kept asking me to do better and in the end I ran out of names.

“In the end he asked me to do it. When I explained I was a publicist and had never done TV programming, Chisholm replied, ‘Don’t worry, there’s not many people watching so if you make a mistake no one’s going to notice.’

“For much of the last 27 years I have been responsible for much of the Foxtel programming, promotions, publicity and marketing. All of those years I have been a consultant and I was never an employee. The workload though was so consuming I never had the opportunity to do the other things I like to do.

“As I move into this chapter of my career I thought it was time to spread my wings and do some other things. The Foxtel directors, management team and the proprietor have been extraordinary and have understood that.

“I have signed a new contract with the company to continue doing what I love – telling Australian stories. In due course I will get to branch out in the entertainment industry and do a few other things.”

Foxtel Originals: The plan

When asked if Walsh was purely a drama executive now, he replied: “You could say my whole life has been drama. [Laughs]

“It is very much about scripted – drama and comedy is what I will be focussing on.

“The incoming [Foxtel executive head of entertainment] Marshall Heald will take responsibility for all the entertainment and unscripted original productions. That is what he did so brilliantly at SBS and he is a great addition to the team.”

Will Foxtel compete with other streaming platforms?

“My remit previously was the cable and satellite business. What [Foxtel CEO] Patrick Delany was keen for me to do was assume responsibility for drama across all of our businesses. In this new role I am responsible for all of the commissions for Binge, for Foxtel and we may even do some commissions for Kayo.

“Australians are embracing the sort of drama we have been producing. The [Foxtel] business has been challenged in the last five years, but we have turned the corner. Getting into the streaming space has made a huge difference to Foxtel. We are now reaching almost 5m subscribers across our platforms. That it a significant number of customers to service and they absolutely embrace the idea of having great drama to watch.

Streaming TV

HBO dramas like Game of Thrones have been key to Foxtel’s premium drama offer

“Each [streaming] platform has its own idea of how they want to be seen in market. We have always prided ourselves that our dramas are premium. We take the view that our customers embrace the best television from around the world. We get [drama] from the BBC, from HBO. Our Australian dramas have to be of that quality because of the other shows they are watching.

“While we don’t have the quantity that some of those other platforms might have, we do have the quality. At the end of the day I take the view we are serving our customers who are paying for the service and they deserve top quality.

“I prescribe to the theory that less is more. I’d rather do bespoke originals that are top quality, are memorable, noisy, and have cut-through. Programs that keep the value equations very strong for our customers.”

Don’t mention the TV Week Logies

While the TV Week Logies rated well for Nine, it was a long, long show and there was discussion about the quality of the Neighbours tribute.

Andrew Mercado: “The Logies got lucky this year with the ratings. They were up probably because it hadn’t been on for a couple of years. I would hate to think the producers would use that to think they could churn out the same again for four hours next year.

“Four hours is a very long time to watch on a Sunday night. The opening was flat. The Logies needs a bomb put under it in terms of production. When Andrew Denton arrived as a host all those years ago The Logies suddenly became a cool show to watch again. That’s what the Logies needs now.”

Mercado then asked Walsh what he would change if Foxtel was the Logies broadcaster.


Foxtel is promising a fitting Neighbours tribute at 2022 AACTA Awards event

Walsh answered by explaining: “Foxtel is the principal sponsor of AACTA. We have an opportunity in December this year with the AACTA Awards to present to Australia and award show that will lift the bar. It will embrace all the ways that Australians are consuming entertainment.

“The Logies is a celebration of FTA television. That is fine as long as we understand that. This year I didn’t think it was inclusive of Paramount+, Disney+, Stan, Foxtel, Binge, Kayo or the other streaming services that Australians are watching. It felt very old-fashioned to me.

“It was a wakeup call that we need to do something to improve the writing on these shows. I agree the opening was very flat and there were a lot of very flat moments. It seems to have lost its spontaneity.

“I applaud Nine for supporting the event the way they do. It would have cost them a lot of money, but the show seems to have lost its relevance.”

The Logies’ Neighbours tribute

Walsh: “It was a major disappointment because we had many of the cast in the room. What would it have taken to let them come onstage to have their moment.

“At the AACTA Awards we will make a point of giving Neighbours the farewell it richly deserves.”

Final day of filming at Neighbours

Mercado: “The Neighbours cast have every right to be upset. They were asked to arrive first on the red carpet and then had to wait around two hours for everybody else to arrive. They were eventually seated at the very back of the room behind two cameras and they couldn’t even see what was happening.

“It was an absolute disgrace. That clip package was one of the laziest Neighbours tributes. It was disgraceful how it was treated after 37 years.”

Top image: Foxtel’s drama Love Me and key cast members Hugo Weaving, Logie winner Heather Mitchell and Shalom Brune-Franklin 

To Top