6:00am PT by Michael O'Connell
How Arnold's 'Apprentice' Must Perform to Outrate Donald Trump
Arnold Schwarzenegger won't just be scrambling to escape Donald Trump's shadow on Monday night. The new Celebrity Apprentice host must fend against some downright daunting TV competition during his new show's season premiere.
The networks aren't wasting any time at the tail-end of the holiday weekend. NBC's two-hour Apprentice opener is going head-to-head with an all-originals lineup from the Big Four and, perhaps more formidable, college bowl games on ESPN. The evening of Jan. 2 brings Fox's MasterChef Celebrity Showdown, CBS comedies and the two-hour premiere of ABC's The Bachelor. On the East Coast, Apprentice will go against The Rose Bowl. And on the West Coast, the telecast is programmed opposite the Sugar Bowl. It's not exactly an easy choice.
NCAA Football will prove to be a big draw, but Schwarzenegger's real ratings match is with fellow non-sports counter-programmer The Bachelor. The ABC veteran remains one of the most dependable reality draws on broadcast, and its Bachelor choice for this 21st cycle is a fan favorite from three different seasons of the sister franchises. When the two shows last shared airwaves, back in early 2015, The Bachelor outrated The Apprentice by 25 percent. (Let's recall: This was around the time Trump claimed to reporters it was "the No. 1 show on television" — when it was, in fact, No. 41 that season.)
For his part, Trump's replacement does not seem to care as much about ratings as he does, though that's not saying much considering the president-elect's unparalleled fondness for bragging about viewership. "I come from a marketing mentality, and the most important thing is that every American knows this show is coming on," Schwarzenegger recently told The Hollywood Reporter. "I hope everyone chills and just sees the show for what it is."
So how will Apprentice have to perform to best the most recent run of the show's Trump years? All told, that season averaged a 2.4 rating among adults 18-to-49 and 7.6 million viewers once live-plus-seven day returns were tallied. A strong showing, for sure; they're also not the kind of numbers that anyone salivates over. Premiere night presents a more complicated hurdle. The last go opened on a Sunday, with comparatively less competition, averaging a live 2.4 rating among adults 18-49 and 6.3 million viewers. The official Monday debut (questionably titled "Nobody Out Thinks Donald Trump") the following evening fetched a 2.0 rating in the key demo and 6.5 million viewers. The Bachelor led it that night in both measures.
NBC brass aren't said to be expecting any sort of boffo boost for the franchise, but all of the promotions and media attention around Trump's lingering executive producer credit and paycheck have Apprentice bowing amid atypical attention. So a win for Schwarzenegger just might be sustaining his predecessor's performance.