Lord Sugar fires warning shot to his Beeb bosses over Young Apprentice time slot
08:12 GMT, 23 November 2012
Unhappy: Lord Sugar blames the promotion and scheduling of Young Apprentice on its ratings plummeting
As if the BBC isn’t mired in enough controversy, bosses are now facing a revolt from one of its biggest stars.
The Apprentice’s Lord Sugar is furious with the corporation over its treatment of his current spin-off show, Young Apprentice.
Sources close to the tycoon say he’s made it clear to the Beeb he’ll look at moving to another channel if things don’t improve.
I’m told Sugar, who is worth an estimated 770 million, is angry at the way BBC1 has scheduled and promoted this year’s Young Apprentice, which is midway through its run.
My TV insiders add that Channel 5 and Sky are interested in working on new shows with the 65-year-old businessman.
Young Apprentice features 16 and 17-year-old entrepreneurs competing for a 25,000 investment, and is a pet project for Sugar.
But ratings have plummeted to around four million from more than 5 million, and the BBC plans to axe it to focus on the adult series. Sugar blames the promotion and scheduling of the latest series — which is shown on Thursdays at 8pm, clashing with ITV1’s I’m A Celebrity.
In a Twitter conversation with his friend and TV rival Piers Morgan, he said sarcastically: ‘The BBC (is) too frightened to tell me (about the ratings for Young Apprentice) due to their brilliant scheduling.’
The show is made by independent production company Boundless (formerly Talkback Thames) and is in its third year. The Apprentice has run for eight series.
My source says: ‘The U.S. Apprentice is hosted by Donald Trump and continues to get huge promotion and publicity from its commercial broadcaster NBC.
‘Donald also makes many, many millions from the show, but Alan isn’t bothered about the money side because he understands that the BBC is under financial constraints.
Clashing schedules: Young Apprentice is on at the same time as I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, presented by Ant and Dec pictured, on ITV
‘However, he believes The Apprentice and Young Apprentice have the legs to run for years and years, and if the BBC tries to marginalise them he will jump ship.’
The BBC has a deal to screen The Apprentice until 2014, but I understand Lord Sugar isn’t on an exclusive contract and can work for other broadcasters on new projects if he wants to.
His spokesman says: ‘Lord Sugar is passionate about and committed to The Apprentice and recently signed a new two-year deal. Production is already under way for a brand new series, which will air on BBC1 next year, and he is on board for a further series in 2014.’
The BBC tells me there are no plans at the moment for another series of Young Apprentice. But channel controller Danny Cohen says: ‘Lord Sugar is an important and valued face of BBC1.’
In need of viewers…
The ratings for last week’s Children In Need were down two million on last year — a significant dip insiders say must be linked to the recent BBC revelations.
They claim it’s a clear sign the Jimmy Savile and Lord McAlpine scandals have damaged the Beeb.
Significant drop: Ratings for Children in Need, presented by Sir Terry Wogan and Nick Grimshaw, were down by two million on last year
A BBC source said: ‘There was a lot of anecdotal evidence of viewers feeling uncomfortable about being part of a BBC event to raise money for children after what’s emerged.’
Bosses were relieved that donations were up (a record 26.7 million was raised) so the charity wasn’t hurt. ‘From what we’re told, some people who tuned out still donated,’ said the source.
Gary Lineker's eldest son could be about to follow his dad’s footsteps into a showbiz career.
New star Gary pictured in 2010 with his son George Lineker who may enter Celebrity Big Brother
I hear that party-mad George, 20, is in negotiations to enter Channel 5’s Celebrity Big Brother house in January.
Bosses are also lining up model Courtney Stodden, who married actor Doug Hutchison when he was 51 and she was 16.
My show source says: ‘They want controversial characters who will attract headlines. Gary probably won’t be delighted, but he always supports his son.’
Last weekend’s shock exit of The X Factor’s most talented contestant, Ella Henderson, has thrown the ITV show into further crisis.
I’m told Ella, 16, who’d been backed by Adele to win, blames the producers for not letting her sing an original composition.
My source says: ‘Ella’s furious. She sang her own song Missed at her audition and it was by far her best performance. She wanted to sing it each week but was always ordered to wait until the final.’
It’s ironic as X Factor chiefs made a big deal about getting songwriters to enter this year.
They are now genuinely worried that viewers will vote for Christopher Maloney, as a protest against Simon Cowell. Music bosses don’t believe Maloney can have a successful career.
Trouble on X Factor: Ella Henderson, the latest contestant to leave the show, is unhappy she wasn't allowed to sing her own material