Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Apprentice’ Debut Fell Short of Trump-Era Ratings
NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice returned to television on Monday night with a new host and a new catchphrase. But Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hosting debut wasn’t enough to give the network a ratings win for the show’s premiere.
The latest iteration of Comcast-owned NBC’s Apprentice reality TV franchise—which featured now president-elect Donald Trump as host for more than a decade—lost the ratings battle with rival networks ABC and CBS (CBS) during the 8 p.m. ET primetime slot on Monday night. With Schwarzenegger now in the hosting chair, The New Celebrity Apprentice averaged roughly 4.9 million total viewers across its two-hour premiere, according to Nielsen’s tracking numbers.
ABC’s two-hour The Bachelor premiere pulled in nearly 6.6 million viewers by comparison, while CBS averaged more than 6 million viewers between four half-hour sitcoms that aired between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
While NBC heavily promoted Schwarzenegger’s Apprentice takeover ahead of the show’s January debut, the movie star and former California governor’s reality TV turn got off to a mediocre start, especially when compared with the ratings of his predecessor. The ratings for last night’s Celebrity Apprentice premiere were down more than 22% from the debut episode of Trump’s most recent season hosting (2014-2015). The show averaged 7.6 million nightly viewers in that season, and the ratings for the key demographic (viewers aged 18 to 49) across that season was roughly 46% higher than what Schwarzenegger’s debut scored on Monday.
The network has been pushing the show’s new host and new season for months, including weathering last month’s controversy over the fact that president-elect Trump will continue receiving an executive producer credit on the show going forward. (As Fortune reported at the time, Trump has a large stake in the show that he co-created with fellow producer Mark Burnett, but will reportedly be compensated by MGM, which owns the majority stake in the production company that owns the rights to the Apprentice franchise.)
To be fair, the Celebrity Apprentice premiere faced stiff Monday night competition that included The Bachelor premiere as well as a thrilling college football game in the Penn State-USC Rose Bowl matchup on ESPN (DIS). Still, NBC (CMCSA) was likely hoping for a more impressive start to the post-Trump era of its Apprentice franchise, even though some early reviews for the Schwarzenegger-led show were not particularly kind.
When reached for comment, NBC ratings guru Tom Bierbaum noted that last year’s season premiere of the Celebrity Apprentice did not face major sports competition and that Monday’s premiere still managed to provide a strong lead-in for new NBC gameshow The Wall, which retained most of the Apprentice’s viewers to share the top ratings in the 10 p.m. time-slot among the key younger demographic.