NBC today took the rare step of responding to a tabloid story — a report in the New York Post that Celebrity Apprentice executive producers Mark Burnett and Donald Trump have a two-year deal with the network that will pay them $160 million, with star Trump pocketing some $65 million a year. “The financial information reported today in regards to The Celebrity Apprentice is grossly inaccurate and has been significantly overstated,” NBC said in a statement. “While it is our policy to keep financial information strictly confidential, neither the production costs of the show nor what Mr. Trump makes personally is in the realm of reality. Donald Trump and The Apprentice franchise remain a key part of the NBC primetime lineup and we are looking forward to another compelling cycle next season.” In May, NBC renewed Celebrity Apprentice for another season to launch in midseason. According to sources, there is no deal for another year after that. And the license fee the network will pay for the next cycle is about half of the $80 million a season listed. While still a potent performer, Celebrity Apprentice is no longer in the top tier of reality juggernauts like Dancing With the Stars, American Idol, The Bachelor, Survivor, and now The Voice.
UPDATE MONDAY AM: NBC made a big headline at its upfront presentation today regarding Donald Trump who took the stage to deliver the news: “After getting so many calls from NBC executives, I’ve decided that I will continue onward with The Apprentice. I will not be running for president, as much as I wanted to,” he said. “This will be our 12th season. I love Celebrity Apprentice.” Just yesterday, NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said on a conference call that NBC was working on plans to replace Trump on The Apprentice should he decide to run. After Trump’s statement, which drew big applause from the audience of ad buyers, Greenblatt quipped, “Every network wants to make news at its upfront. Try topping that!” Over the past few months, Trump had been publicly flirting with the idea of running for President. At some point, he mulled announcing his final decision on the season finale of Celebrity Apprentice but then scrapped that idea.
SUNDAY: NBC had both Sunday Night Football and Celebrity Apprentice on its just-revealed schedule for next season despite the NFL football season being in limbo because of the current players lockout and Celebrity Apprentice star Donald Trump mulling a presidential bid. During a conference call today, NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt expressed hope that both football and The Donald will be back but also said that the network is working on contingency plans if that doesn’t happen.
“Certainly we’re hoping that he will be back with us,” Greenblatt said of Trump. But if he isn’t, “we will bring the show back and have someone else at the head of the boardroom table. … (Celebrity Apprentice) is too strong a franchise for us not to consider that.” Greenblatt wouldn’t discuss whom they have in mind as a replacement for Trump, only saying that it would be someone who is “confident and galvanizing.”
As for Sunday Night Football, “we feel pretty good about where we are with the NFL and “pretty optimistic that football will be there,” Greenblatt said. “Worst-case scenario, (the season) will be delayed by a few weeks.” NBC is already working on “high-quality, live entertainment reality-type shows that would fill the gap,” Greenblatt said. He wouldn’t elaborate, only noting that they are “attention-getting big ideas” and that NBC will air the specials elsewhere on the schedule if there is no delay to the football season.
Other tidbits from the NBC call:
Comcast Will Spend $300M More This Year On NBC Primetime & Cable While Admitting Universal “Has To Make Better Films”
This morning, the top Comcast execs in an earnings conference call admitted to Wall Street that NBCUniversal, which the company just purchased, is a fixer-upper and, in the short term, a money pit. NBCU chief Steve Burke says the company plans to spend $200 million more this year on NBC’s primetime schedule than General Electric did last year when it owned the network. (Burke is looking at 21 pilots, about the same number NBC ordered in 2010.) Comcast considers the turnaround to be a long-term project, but Burke says that simply lifting NBC to third place from fourth would mean “hundreds of millions” in improvement in the company’s cash flow. Meanwhile, Burke also says he plans to spend $100 million more this year on programming NBCU’s cable networks. He expects a “very strong” upfront ad sales season.
As for Universal’s film business, where 1Q revenues and operating cash flow declined, Burke says that “we have to make better films,” although the size of its current slate is “about right.” He attributed some of the woes to the fact that the company had to include a lot of marketing costs for Hop and Fast Five in the latest quarterly report even though most of the revenues from those recently released films will show up on Comcast’s next earnings statement.
Both Burke and Roberts mentioned the “S” word — synergy — which hasn’t been used by Big Media since the days of AOL Time Warner. And we all know how that turned out.
UPDATE: Tonight Saturday Night Live head writer and Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers entertained at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner – that annual media-politics-showbiz schmoozefest in Washington DC. I’ve been to the White House Correspondents Dinner, and, if history is any judge, then comedians asked to perform there seem to do best when they joke with gentle jibes rather than go for the jugular. Meyers met that criteria and more: he kept his targets bipartisan during the prestigious gig. This was Meyers’ first time hosting and he had to compete with President Obama who utilizes some very good joke writers. (Clients of WME? Because of the Rahm/Ari Emanuel connection?) Meyers started out flat because most of his news-based jokes seemed too cerebral for the crowd whose intellects were obviously overestimated. But then Seth began to score, and score, and score, by tweaking his bosses at Comcast/NBCUniversal and skewering Hollywood and thumping Donald Trump.
So did President Obama, who landed some very pointed shots at both The Donald and Matt Damon after taking it on the chin from them in recent weeks. Obama noted that ”Matt Damon said the other day that he was disappointed in my performance. Well, Matt, I just saw The Adjustment Bureau…” Obama then proceeded to make fun of The Donald and his birth certificate rants ”focusing on the issues that matter: Like did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac? All kidding aside, we all obviously know about your credentials and experience.” Obama noted how, in the recent Celebrity Apprentice episode’s cooking contest, Trump decided the men’s team suffered a “lack of leadership. So you fired Gary Busey. And these are the kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night. Well handled, sir. Well handled.” The Donald who was sitting in the audience at The Washington Post table managed a weak smile. So much for the accuracy of Trump’s pre-dinner prediction that Obama wouldn’t dare take him on tonight.
6:30 PM: Among the Hollywood celebs spotted were Gleek’s Chris Colfer, Jane Lynch, and Matthew Morrison, Sean Penn, Mira Sorvino, Paula Abdul, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler, Jeremy Piven, Anna Paquin, Ce Lo Green, David and Patricia Arquette, Mila Kunis, Scarlett Johansson, Jon Hamm, Andy Samberg, Alyssa Milano, Joan Rivers, Morgan Fairchild, Brooke Burke, Rosario Dawson, America Ferrerra, Chace Crawford, and Steve Buscemi. The program began
According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll, Mitt Romney appears the early front-runner for the Republican nomination for U.S. president in the 2012 race, but Celebrity Apprentice‘s Donald Trump is running second. Yikes, this yutz? So now I’m asking: Who from Hollywood would you put in The Donald …