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NBC's 'The Apprentice 4' sets season ratings high among viewers

By Reality TV World staff, 11/16/2005 

Don't look now, but after getting off to a rocky start this fall, it looks like Donald Trump might be beginning to get some of his Apprentice ratings mojo back.

Although it aired against the most watched television broadcast of the new fall season, last week's broadcast of The Apprentice 4's eighth episode also set a season ratings record of its own, becoming the NBC reality show's most watched episode of the season.

The Apprentice 4's November 10 episode averaged 11.1 million overall viewers and a 4.8/12 rating/share the Adults 18-49 demographic.

While the performance still placed Trump's show far behind the season high 29.55 million viewers who tuned in to watch CBS' CSI, The Apprentice did effectively turn the Thursday 9PM hour into a two-network horserace (Fox, ABC, The WB, and UPN all struggled to average more than 4 million viewers each in the hour.) The Apprentice 4 also ranked a dominant second in the Adults 18-49 rankings, where it outdelivered the hour's third place program (Fox's Reunion) by 167% percent (4.8 versus Reunion's 1.8 rating.)

If The Apprentice is beginning to experience a ratings rebound, it could certainly use it. Although The Apprentice still delivers one of the most upscale audiences on television (a group many advertisers desperately chase after) Trump's show has been in a ratings nose dive since its phenomenally rated first season. After its first season averaged 20.70 million viewers and 7.5 rating, the show began a slide in which the show's ratings have significantly declined with each successive edition.

Last fall's The Apprentice 2 averaged 16.14 million viewers and a 5.8 rating during its run, after which last spring's The Apprentice 3 further declined to 13.96 million viewers and a 5.0 rating. The ratings drop has continued so far this fall, with The Apprentice's fourth edition thus far averaging 10.47 million viewers and a 3.7 rating.

Although most network analysts have attributed a large part of The Apprentice's ratings decline to NBC's loss of Friends and the resulting complete crumbling of the network's Thursday 8PM sitcom block (Joey and Will & Grace are each only averaging about 7-8 million viewers this season, a huge difference from the 20+ million Friends had previously routinely averaged), Trump had previously identified his own scapegoat for his show's problems: Martha Stewart and her struggling The Apprentice spinoff.

After blaming Martha as the cause of his show's struggles in October, Trump has backed off that excuse in his more recent media comments. Of course, being The Donald, he has also had to overexaggerate the impact of his show's weak lead-in. "If we had the same lead-in as season one, I think I'd be getting higher ratings than season one," Trump recent told the New York Daily News. "Instead of having Joey and whatever, I think we would have actually higher ratings." In typical Trump fashion, The Donald didn't explain why he believed it reasonable to think that a now mature reality show like The Apprentice to be doing higher ratings in its fourth season than its first.

Despite the show's ratings drop, The Apprentice remains one of the struggling network's most watched shows (trailing only E.R., My Name Is Earl, Las Vegas, Crossing Jordan, Medium, and NBC's three Law & Order series in the fall season rankings) and is widely expected to be renewed for the 2006-2007 season. The Apprentice 5 -- currently in production -- is scheduled to premiere early next year.

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