Embattled MediaWorks is in danger of bleeding its top talent before its TV arm is even sold or closed.
Three's high-profile stars will already be putting out feelers and seeing what other opportunities exist for them on the back of MediaWorks' Friday announcement that its TV arm is on the market.
Some will also be looking at jumping across the ditch or changing careers, top recruitment experts say.
Commentators have already said MediaWorks' TV operation, which employs about 520 people, is worth "zero", but its appeal could further diminish if some of its top talent jump ship before a sale or closure is confirmed.
H2R Consulting director Jane Walker said staff were usually proactive about determining their own future if they knew an organisation was about to be sold and would be brushing up their CVs.
"There would be a lot of discussion happening right now if they know other people in the media companies. If there's nothing available then they will sit tight."
Employers at rival media organisations would also see it as an opportune time to shoulder-tap high-profile individuals, she said.
"That's the problem when organisations signal that they are going to be sold - you can lose a lot of your talent quite quickly if it's an open market."
Past examples include Hilary Barry and Petra Bagust leaving MediaWorks to join TVNZ, Paul Henry and Heather Du Plessis-Allan swapping TVNZ for MediaWorks and Paul Holmes leaving TVNZ for Prime.
EQ3 Consulting director Jason Walker, who provides business advisory services to the employment sector, said the "smart ones" would be looking at their options now. If MediaWorks closed before the end of the year, then they would be left out of work until at least the end of January when organisations started to employ again.
Staff would be looking at whether there might be opportunities in MediaWorks' radio or outdoor advertising businesses and at rival media organisations, he said.
These organisations could include TVNZ, NZME, Maori TV, Prime and Spark Sport.
"For others they have moved out of the industry completely, but are still using their profiles - like Shane Cortese and Jayne Kiely (who moved into real estate) - to help them in other fields to obtain and generate revenue."
Some of the high-profile presenters already had other avenues of generating significant revenue such as being professional speakers or fronting adverts and might expand these, he said.
Newshub presenter Mike McRoberts already moonlights as a professional speaker and was recently hired by Hamilton City Council to host a mayoral debate.
Walker said the implications for the industry would be more far-reaching than just TV3 staff losing their jobs, as it could also create an oversupply in the industry and push pay packets down.
"Look at TVNZ who may pay some premiums to who are presenting some of their shows and they will think, 'We've actually got a monopoly now. Do we really need to pay these people this amount of money when there are a lot of options out there?'"
Frog Recruitment director Jane Kennelley said because of uncertainty around what was happening with the business, sometimes the best advice was to sit tight.
"No one is going to take on an organisation with no people, or critical skill sets disappearing, so it could just be that they are really encouraged to hold fire and not make a knee-jerk reaction and just sit tight and absolutely wait to see what is going to happen."
Kennelley said while many may not be able to get similar roles, there would also be a range of individuals with highly transferable skills that could be "gold dust" for another organisation.
While some people saw returning to former workplaces as a backward step, others were happy to return.
Among those who have worked at other media organisations are Patrick Gower who was at the Herald, The Project's Jeremy Corbett, who was a breakfast host for More FM, and Jesse Mulligan, who briefly hosted TVNZ's Seven Sharp.
"It may be that they didn't want to leave in the first place, but pursued something that was bigger and brighter and are very happy to go back to where they left," Kennelley said.