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How long will it be before Lord Sugar says “you’re fired” to struggling YouView executives?

On the face of it Lord Sugar, formerly Alan Sugar of Amstrad and choleric star of the BBC show The Apprentice, has been brought into YouView, the attempt to create a connected TV service for Freeview viewers in the UK, to bang shareholders’ heads together.

YouView’s dauntingly long list of shareholders includes the BBC, ITV, Channels 4 and 5, TalkTalk and broadcast infrastructure firm Arquiva.

But when his lordship starts banging there tend to be casualties all over the place and YouView CEO Richard Halton and the other company executives still left standing will be feeling rather nervous this morning.

Sugar has replaced former chairman Kip Meek, once of Ofcom, because of his skill in “consumer marketing and technology delivery” according to the departing Meek.

Well Sugar certainly has an impressive track record in delivering the first generation of Sky set-top boxes. And YouView could certainly do with some of this.

It was supposed to make its consumer debut in 2010, now it’s slated to be 2013 by which time much of the intended market may have bought connected TV systems from someone else, like Apple or Sony.

But there’ll be a few departures along the way, not just executives but maybe shareholders.

It will be interesting to see how Sugar, now he’s landed his first real job in years after frightening off other possible employers like the Football Association, rubs along with the likes of TalkTalks’s Charles Dunstone and Channel 5’s equally combustible owner Richard Desmond.

There may also be a degree of trepidation at ad agency Adam & Eve which won the account last year and is still waiting to get out its magic markers. They would no doubt like the project to begin in earnest, Lord Sugar’s role.

But Sugar as a client. Yikes!

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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