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Fox's 'The Rebel Billionaire' struggles in debut, draws only 5.1 million viewers


By Reality TV World staff, 11/16/2004 

Richard Branson might be a billionaire, but as Mark Cuban learned earlier this fall when his ABC The Benefactor series struggled, in addition to happiness, money also apparently can't buy Nielsen ratings.

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Fox's special two-hour debut of its new The Rebel Billionaire: Branson's Quest For The Best struggled versus CBS's night-long Country Music Association Awards broadcast on Tuesday, November 9, drawing only 5.1 million viewers, a 2.3/6 rating/share in the Adults 18-49 demographic, and a 3.3/5 in households.

While CBS's CMA telecast dominated the airwaves (averaging nearly twice the audience of its next closest rival during the 8-10PM time period during which Rebel Billionaire aired), Branson's show also trailed its non-awards shows competition, placing Fox fifth in its time period for the 8PM hour before moving up to fourth for the 9PM hour.

The performance did have one bright spot -- although its premiere struggled, The Rebel Billionaire did pick up momentum during the course of its broadcast. Increasing its ratings in every half-hour of the two-hour broadcast, Billionaire's last half-hour drew 860,000 more viewers than its first half-hour (5.5 million versus 4.64 million) and also showed similar growth among other key demographics.

As his did with Cuban's show, The Apprentice star Donald Trump wasted no time reveling in the struggles of Fox's copycat series, telling Extra that "Branson's ratings were terrible, down the tubes...The Apprentice is the hottest show there is. Richard Branson, your ratings speak very loudly, and you just got fired!"

Of course, while still popular and performing extremely well among key demographics, the new season of The Apprentice has been far from "the hottest show" on the Fall 2004 schedule (most network observers would give that title to the season's biggest surprise hit -- ABC's Desperate Housewives) but The Donald has never been one to let the facts get in the way of his boasting.

Not content with simply trashing Branson's show, the superficial Trump then took a shot at hitting the British billionaire where he thought it might really hurt -- his ego. "I don't believe he's a billionaire. I don't see how a person can be a billionaire when they own their own airline. I would imagine most of his money is going into his airline to keep it afloat." he added. "I wish him a lot of luck in the businesses. But, I can tell you, on television, he's a total failure."

Showing he's not only superficial but also equally vain (not to mention apparently self-delusional) the combedover real estate tycoon even criticized Branson's physical appearance, telling the New York Post that, "he doesn't have the look and whether we like it or not, the look is a big part of ratings and success." "I don't know the guy, but I think he's got zero personality and zero television persona."

This coming from a man who can't even speak two sentences on his Apprentice series without the need for painfully obvious voiceovers -- even for his "spontaneous" zingers. Apparently it takes one to know one.


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