NBC may be losing one of its biggest stars to the campaign trail.
New York real estate mogul and "Celebrity Apprentice" star Donald Trump on Tuesday officially threw his hat into the 2016 Presidential election, bringing the number of Republican candidates to an even dozen. Mr. Trump's announcement would seem to be at odds with an eighth season of "Celebrity Apprentice," although NBC today said it would "re-evaluate" his role in the series should he make a serious run at the Oval Office.
Not that there's much danger in that. Political analysts are generally treating Mr. Trump's candidacy as little more than a noisy sideshow, and the latest RealClearPolitics poll suggests that he has the support of just 3.6% of GOP voters. More tellingly, data culled from three recent FiveThirtyEight surveys suggests that 57% of Republicans have an unfavorable view of the new candidate.
In a boastful and bewildering speech, Mr. Trump this afternoon declared that he would be "the greatest jobs president that God ever created," before extolling the virtues of China's infrastructure ("they have bridges that make the George Washington Bridge look like small potatoes!") and promising to take down ISIS.
In one of many odd interludes, Mr. Trump also talked up his status as a budget-minded technology guru. "I have so many websites. I have them all over the place," he said. "I hire people…it costs me three dollars."
While Mr. Trump's avowed intention to run for the highest office in the land should make for great political theater—and may well make Jon Stewart rue the day he decided to walk away from Comedy Central's "The Daily Show"—it's seems highly unlikely he'll be a contender come summer 2016. But however things shake out, NBC isn't pulling the plug on "Celebrity Apprentice."
On the odd chance the network brings the show back without Mr. Trump, his children Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric would almost certainly return for an eighth season. The show's too big for NBC to let it fizzle out; per Nielsen, this last season of "Celebrity Apprentice" was the network's fourth highest-rated program behind "Sunday Night Football," "The Voice" and "The Blacklist."
Season 7 of "Celebrity Apprentice" enjoyed healthy year-over-year growth, averaging 6.25 million total viewers, up 26% from Season 6, and a 1.9 in the all-important 18-49 demo. That marked a 17% increase versus the previous season average.
NBC renewed "Celebrity Apprentice" on February 16, the night of the season finale. While the show is not on the 2015-16 schedule, that's nothing new; there was a two-year gap between Seasons 6 and 7.
Last season's "Celebrity Apprentice" aired in January and February, functioning as a stopgap between the fall and spring cycles of "The Voice." Other seasons have aired anywhere from mid-winter to late spring.
This is not the first time Mr. Trump has kept NBC executives guessing. The brash billionaire used the Peacock's May 2011 upfront presentation as a platform from which to announce that he would not seek election in the 2012 Presidential race.
For the record, immediately after Mr. Trump uttered the phrase, "I will not be running for president," the throng of media buyers and advertisers on hand that morning at New York's Hilton Hotel ballroom all but drowned out the Donald with their applause and cheers.