Monday, March 07, 2011

Am I An Apprentice ?

I checked the date. No, it's not 1st April. Still, it appears that the UK's answer to Donald Trump is going to be appointed to run YouView. Yes, Alan Sugar is entering the TV technology market.

I find myself reacting strangely to this.

First of all the YouView project is clearly a mess, and a recent dinner with Kip Meek, YouView's Chair, did nothing but give me an impressions that this is a project without a leader and without a direction - just a bunch of people taking big salaries. He admitted that they did not even have a second screen strategy. Unbelievable in a world of social media and social television.

But putting a poacher in charge is worrying. Sugar is a survivor, not a businessman. He has no understanding whatsoever of the TV content industry, and therefore will be widely dismissive of it and its practices. Then he'll come across Hollywood and react like Gordon Ramsey in a beltway dinner riddled with rats. This is unlikely to go down well.

Straddling the technology and content divide is a difficult balancing act, as I have found to my benefit and my cost during my career. It's an act the current management of YouView has totally failed in. Three years to release a specification that could have been written in a week is pathetic. But perhaps the very idea of bringing together the UK TV industry is mad anyway, especially without the most important players involved. Sky and Virgin will be disdainful.

There are plenty of open standards such as HBB doing what YouView espouses to do. Major TV manufacturers find it laughable, and now it seems even senior BBC execs are trying to distance themselves from the monster they created.

When David Cameron talks about entrepreneurs, perhaps he should give credit to those of us who spend our own time, money and resources on competing with this type of waste that comes from the BBC and try to build the future of television technology. But you can bet that it's no more than rhetoric.

I'd strongly suggest that Jeremy Hunt should take another half a billion from the fat cats at the BBC and use it to seed the next generation of TV, since the BBC have proven that they are capable of nothing more than empire building.

That, at least, would be a start in supporting the entrepreneurs that Cameron seems so laughably keen on.