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Celebrity Apprentice finally returned to the airwaves on January 2 for its eighth season on NBC, and it introduced viewers to a new era of the competition show as former host Donald Trump has been replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now, the numbers are in, and we know how many people tuned in to see Schwarzenegger's debut as the new host.
The two-hour Celebrity Apprentice premiere attracted 4.9 million viewers and drew a decent 1.3 rating in the valuable 18-49 age demographic. The ratings were high enough to land Celebrity Apprentice in the #2 spot (behind The Bachelor at #1) for a series in the 8-10 p.m. ET time slot on any of the Big 4 networks. The premiere managed to hold on to the 1.3 rating from the first half-hour all the way to the fourth half-hour, which at least means that the folks who tuned in were hooked enough by Arnold Schwarzenegger and the new batch of celebrity hopefuls to stick around for the whole two hours. If Season 8 follows the same ratings patterns as Season 7, the episodes will likely experience a significant boost in the 18-49 demo once Video On Demand numbers can be calculated. All in all, the ratings and viewership didn't exactly break any records, but they weren't half bad either.
The ratings for the Season 8 premiere of Celebrity Apprentice were perhaps affected by the stiff primetime competition. Two major college football games were played on January 2, with coverage overlapping onto the 8 - 10 p.m. ET slot. A Celebrity Apprentice premiere with a brand new host was a big deal, but the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl games are the kind of TV events that most people are inclined to watch live. Some folks who would regularly catch Celebrity Apprentice live may have been glued to ESPN and college football.
Another factor that may have contributed to the lower ratings for the Season 8 premiere is simply that some NBC affiliates are currently blacked out to those who subscribe to DirectTV. People in certain areas simply couldn't watch Celebrity Apprentice live. Even if we can't say exactly how much of an effect the blackouts had on the overall ratings for the first episodes, they obviously didn't help Season 8 get off to as strong a start as possible.
The numbers for the Season 8 premiere are markedly lower than the numbers for the Season 7 premiere. Still, there are scheduling variables that must be taken into account before we start worrying about the future of Celebrity Apprentice. The Season 7 kickoff averaged 6.485 million viewers and a 2.0 in the 18 - 49 demographic in the same Monday 8 - 10 p.m. time slot, but it faced no major sports competition. Furthermore, the Season 8 premiere actually finished within 0.4 of the Season 7 finale in 2015. Even if the ratings and viewership weren't spectacular to start Season 8, they weren't terrible, and we may see the numbers jump as soon as Video On Demand ratings can be calculated. Who knows? Maybe some viewers will want to tune in next week just to see how campy Arnold Schwarzenegger can get with his new Celebrity Apprentice catchphrase.