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Inside Lord Sugar's 'you're fired' YouView bust-up with TV baron

Apprentice head honcho quits telly box biz

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YouView has announced that Lord Alan Sugar will leave the consortium two years after he headed up the organisation.

It was reported over the weekend that he stepped down after an especially animated Apprentice-style boardroom bust-up between the peer and Richard Desmond, owner of Channel 5. Lord Sugar was apparently told "you're fired" in a taunting manner during the high-level consortium meeting. There is no suggestion he was dismissed.

Lord Sugar earned five times the £97,000 salary paid to his predecessor Kip Meek, the Guardian reported in January. But the peer did stick around long enough for YouView partners to actually ship the first boxes after more than four years of development.

The YouView set-top boxes combine a digital video recorder with Freeview received over the air and internet-delivered catch-up services from BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

TalkTalk claimed to have shifted 80,000 YouView boxes in the final quarter of 2012, and BT reckoned 60,000 are installed. Both ISPs subsidise the boxes. An unsubsidised Humax YouView box sets you back £249 at John Lewis.

YouView began life as Project Canvas in late 2008, causing alarm among pay-per-view TV rivals, which seems quite ludicrous today. The world has moved on: Freesat matured, and new over-the-top players (so-called because they run on top of someone else's network) such Netflix, Amazon's LoveFilm and Tesco's Blinkbox make an instant impact on the TV business.

The competition has obliged Sky to unbundled its pay-per-view offerings into the subscription service Sky Go. Today, whatever made YouView unique has sedimented into global TV standard specifications, a process managed by the Digital TV group.

One thing hasn't changed, though. Rival smart TV user interfaces continue to suck. ®

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