The sad news that Mediaworks has put its TV arm up for sale is likely to drive an unprecedented battle for prime-time seats on screen.

Spy has learned some Newshub and Three staff are already looking at exit plans, which could force a game of musical chairs across the networks.

The key slots are the Breakfast shows, the 6pm news bulletins and the 7pm programmes, which try to straddle current affairs and light entertainment.

If Mediaworks offerings collapse, it's multi-presenter formats could be at risk — networks won't need to splash out huge money when the competition dries up, paving the way for a return to the Holmes or Campbell Live one-person format.

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If so, Hilary Barry — who jumped ship from Three to TVNZ — is likely to be the winner. She is the face of women in power and "Mother of the Nation" in waiting.

Her competition may come from The Project guest host Patrick Gower, leaving Jeremy Corbett and Jesse Mulligan off the life raft.

For Breakfast, Kanoa Lloyd has won hearts and minds and could easily switch from her The Project role at 7pm to join John Campbell in the mornings — nabbing Haley Holt's spot.

The AM Show presenters face and uphill battle. The multi-talented Amanda Gillies would be an attractive proposition if the right role could be found, but the polarising Duncan Garner and Mark Richardson would be others off the life raft.

At 6pm, Mike McRoberts and Samantha Hayes would be in a tough spot trying to oust Wendy Petrie and Simon Dallow. But in a single-presenter format, Hayes is the star who could outshine, leaving the others to the world of MC-ing or even a dabble in politics given their power brands.

Of course, Spy's speculation could all go out the window if networks move to artificial intelligence presenting the news.