After polling booths close on Saturday, four weeks’ worth of shiny commitments and political jousting will give way to wall-to-wall coverage of how Victorians have chosen their next government.

Amid the maps and margins, televised election coverage is the night of nights for political pundits and a source of (sometimes) entertaining drama for wider audiences.

Edge of the seat stuff: As always, the ABC’s election analyst Antony Green will be trying to balance calling it first with calling it right.Credit:ABC

Former Liberal MP John Pesutto memorably lost his seat on live television at the 2018 poll, as a panelist for the ABC. He told The Age this week that “given what happened last time” he would be “at home patiently awaiting the people’s verdict” this time around.

However, there will be a host of other candidates braving the cameras. So, who are they? Where can you watch election coverage? And who will call the election?

Where will the election be broadcast?

Nine, owner of this masthead, will start its broadcast at 5pm, ahead of polling booths closing at 6pm. Peter Hitchener will present a special news bulletin at 6pm. Presenters Alicia Loxley and Tony Jones will continue live coverage from 7pm, with political editor Charles Croucher and reporter Heidi Murphy offering analysis.

ABC TV and the ABC NEWS channel will begin their election coverage from 6pm, after a special edition of the news at 5.30pm. News presenter Tamara Oudyn, Insiders host David Speers, and ABC chief election analyst Antony Green will lead the coverage as the votes come in.

Peter Mitchell will present Channel Seven’s coverage from 5.30pm. Presenter Rebecca Maddern and state political editor Sharnelle Vella will join their panel.

Sky News chief news anchor Kieran Gilbert will lead the network’s coverage from 5pm, and be joined by political editor Andrew Clennell and presenter Peta Credlin.

On Network 10, Jennifer Keyte and state political reporter Patrick Murrell will present a late bulletin at 10.30pm.

Who is appearing where?

Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan, shadow treasurer David Davis and Greens leader Samantha Ratnam will join the ABC’s live coverage on Saturday night. Former Labor campaign strategist Kos Samaras and Liberal campaign strategist Tony Barry will also join the incumbent candidates.

Seven’s election-night panel will feature former Victorian premiers Jeff Kennett and Steve Bracks. Labor’s Mary-Anne Thomas, Liberals Georgie Crozier and Matt Bach, and the Reason Party’s Fiona Patten will weigh in with their views too.

Nine’s panel will include former Labor Premier John Brumby and Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson.

Sky News will host a panel including Labor MP Lisa Neville and Liberal MP Tim Smith – neither of whom is re-contesting their seat – Liberal Senator Jane Hume, former Rudd-Gillard Labor Senator Stephen Conroy, and former Victorian Liberal Party president Michael Kroger.

Steve Bracks and Jeff Kennett were political rivals at the turn of the century but will be co-panellists on Saturday night. Credit:Heath Missen

How (and when) will the election be called?

The networks might be hoping for an early result, with the Socceroos playing Tunisia at 9pm, but pundits tip the outcome could take longer than Labor’s 2018 landslide. There’s always an outside chance the night will finish with no clear winner at all, but that won’t stop the networks giving it their very best shot.

ABC’s chief election analyst Antony Green has been preparing for election night for the past six weeks. The broadcaster has used a new computer system since the Western Australia election in 2021 that allows technical changes for dealing with non-two-party contests.

Alicia Loxley and Tony Jones will present Nine’s live coverage of the Victorian election.Credit:Nine

“I’ve had to sort out and organise historic votes for each candidate in 2200 polling places,” Green says. “You’ve got to put all the history in there to get accurate predictions.”

Nine’s in-house election system, which has evolved over more than 20 years, takes electoral commission data, factors in preference polls, and matches early results booth-by-booth with results from previous elections. The data will be presented by Mark Santomartino on a “mega wall” helping the panel call seats live.

“For a newsroom, an election is like grand final day. Everyone has done all the preparation and is quite pumped about it,” Nine news director Hugh Nailon says.

7NEWS chief political editor Mark Riley will provide commentary and give viewers up-to-the-minute poll data using touch-screen technology, coined the “screen of dreams”, which the network debuted at this year’s federal poll.

Sky News chief election analyst Tom Connell will call seats as the numbers unfold.

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