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Mark Burnett: If NBC doesn't renew 'Apprentice' I'll take it elsewhere


By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 04/20/2007 

The Apprentice's recent lack of ratings success could lead to NBC firing Donald Trump, but show creator Mark Burnett said if that happens, The Donald will simply be end up being employed by someone else.

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"If you think I'm going to let The Apprentice end -- even if it's not on NBC -- that's not going to happen. Donald Trump is too big of a name," Burnett told the New York Post this week. "If you look honestly at the numbers, even on a Sunday, with all sorts of [programming] disadvantages... we're still beating The Black Donnellys, Studio 60 and Friday Night Lights."

Given all three of the NBC series Burnett mentioned are also considered to be shaky ground, Burnett's decision to compare his own series to them seems curious at best.  Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip has been "on hiatus" -- pending an all-but-confirmed cancellation -- for several months while its replacement, The Black Donnellys, was pulled for the air after only a six-week midseason run.  The fate of Friday Night Lights, the most critically-acclaimed of the three series, is more uncertain and expected to remain in doubt until NBC announces its 2007-2008 primetime schedule next month.

The Apprentice: Los Angeles, the sixth installment of the Trump reality competition series, currently ranks 101st in the 2006-2007 season-to-date average total viewers ratings.  It currently ranks behind numerous other NBC shows --  including other NBC programs Deal or No Deal (14th on Mondays, 42th on Fridays, 47th on Thursdays and 58th on Wednesdays), Heroes (17th), Law & Order: SVU (36th),  ER (38th), Law & Order: Criminal Intent (67th), My Name is Earl (68th), and The Office (84th). 

Even Grease: You're the One That I Want -- a recently concluded ratings disappointment that ranks 100th and served as The Donald's lead-in for part of The Apprentice's current season -- has bested The Apprentice in the season's total viewership rankings.  Studio 60 (80th) also places ahead of The Apprentice: Los Angeles in season-to-date ratings, while The Black Donnellys (120th) and Friday Night Lights (136th) aren't far behind.

For the week ending April 15 alone -- the week that saw The Apprentice: Los Angeles air its penultimate episode -- The Donald's reality competition series ranked 63rd, behind other NBC shows Deal or No Deal (23th on Monday, 37th on Sunday), ER (29th), Law & Order: SVU (34th), Thank God You're Here (39th), Medium (42th), The Office (43rd), Law & Order: Criminal Intent (52th), My Name is Earl (54th), Dateline Sunday (55th), Identity (57th), Raines (59th), and Friday Night Lights (62th).  The Apprentice: Los Angeles tied for 63rd with NBC's Crossing Jordan.

In addition, out of the big four broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox -- NBC ranked last for the week ending April 15 with a total average viewership figure of 6.81 million.  Overall, the network has thus far averaged 9.19 million total viewers over the entire season.  Last week's 6.81 million average of total viewers is thought to be lowest weekly average that NBC has recorded during a television season since Nielsen ratings first arrived on the scene 20 years ago, according to The Associated Press.

However according to Burnett, he believes that The Apprentice's significantly stronger performance in some of the more affluent ratings demographics that advertisers increasingly desire -- demographics such as Adults 18-49 living in households earning $100,000 or more -- will continue to make the series attractive to television networks.

"I have no idea what NBC is going to do [with The Apprentice] and I haven't heard a peep about it. They're still within their option time," Burnett told the Post. "But I speak to Donald Trump all the time and we're surprised we're doing as well as we're doing. In the end, network TV is about selling advertising, and I can guarantee you, if you ask anyone at NBC ad sales, it's a fact that they can sell The Apprentice to higher demos."

Last June, Trump announced that NBC had already renewed The Apprentice for a seventh season, however NBC has never formally confirmed the statement.  Given Burnett's own Post comments, the pronouncement appears to have just been more false boasting from Trump, who despite the continuing ratings decline of his show's last several editions, has continued to allege that he has "the No. 1 show on television."

If NBC decides against renewing The Apprentice for another season, it won't be the first time that Burnett has tried to move one of his reality shows to another network after an NBC decision to pass on additional seasons.  After NBC declined to renew Burnett's The Contender boxing reality series following poor ratings in a Sunday night time period similar to The Apprentice: Los Angeles', it moved to ESPN for its second season.

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