NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Even Bret Michaels might not be able to keep "Celebrity Apprentice" from getting lost in the hype over "Lost."
Mr. Michaels is expected to appear as one of two finalists vying for the crown on the Donald Trump showcase this Sunday, despite his brain hemorrhage last month and temporary readmission to the hospital this week after a "warning stroke," leading to speculation that the series closer will get a ratings rise.
NBC said it had "virtually sold out" ad time in this weekend's season finale of "Celebrity Apprentice," set to air live at 9 p.m. Sunday, yet another sign that marketers are eager to invest in TV programming expected to attract a more intense audience than is the norm.
Advertiser demand for the finale is "very strong," said an NBC spokeswoman. A 30-second spot in "Celebrity Apprentice" was valued at an average of $110,283 in last year's upfront market, according to Ad Age's annual survey of the cost of advertising in broadcast prime time. Buying commercial time in the "scatter market" that followed has gotten increasingly more expensive as the economy has begun to recover.
Mark Burnett Productions, the producer of "Celebrity Apprentice," has long sold the "integrations," or product appearances in the program, but NBC also expects to have traditional commercials from some of the marketers who have been woven into the show, the spokeswoman said.
And advertisers have flocked to "event-like" programs this season, betting on bigger audiences and more people watching live, unable to fast-forward through the commercials. Ratings for crowd-pleasing events such as the Super Bowl and the Oscars have been up this year.
But even if a "Celebrity Apprentice" finale with a return by Mr. Michaels qualifies as an event, it's going up against a certified big event: the 9 p.m. Sunday series finale of "Lost," the mysterious fan-favorite set to air as part of a multi-hour event on ABC.
In the season to date as of May 16, "Celebrity Apprentice" had attracted an average of 7.6 million viewers, far less than such programs as Fox's "American Idol" or CBS' "NCIS."