Trump's White House bid gets press, but fails to drive up 'Apprentice' ratings

If Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Finance: Goldman Sachs alums in both Clinton, Trump camps The Trail 2016: GOP stages of grief Gilmore: I’ll lead Trump’s voter registration in Virginia MORE's flirtation with running for president is a bid to boost ratings for his reality TV show, it doesn’t appear to be working.

Trump, the real estate mogul who hosts "The Apprentice," has been surging in polls measuring support for GOP presidential hopefuls.

But the ratings for the 11th season of NBC’s "The Apprentice," which features celebrity contestants, hit their lowest point for the season last Sunday, even as Trump was enjoying prominence in a slew of presidential headlines.

Just over 7.6 million viewers tuned in to last Sunday's episode, down from a high point of 9.7 million viewers on April 3. As a point of reference, the lowest-rated program on Nielsen's weekly listing of the 20 best-rated programs, "Undercover Boss," drew 8.9 million viewers last week.

Viewership is still up, over all, from last season. The show has averaged 8.8 million viewers per episode this season, almost double the average of 4.7 million viewers per episode from last fall's season but well below the ratings enjoyed by the initial few episodes of the show. The jump could be attributed to the fact that this season's edition features a celebrity cast, versus last season's cast of virtual unknowns.

All along, Trump has denied using a presidential run to promote "The Apprentice," saying Thursday on Fox News that his possible entry into the race for the Republican 2012 nomination is not a publicity stunt.

"Look, 'Celebrity Apprentice' gets great ratings. It's the No. 1 show on NBC, by far. It's a real winner. It's a great show," he said. “I don't need to do this for ratings for 'Celebrity Apprentice.' Besides, that's too trivial."

Indeed, Trump's talk of running preceded the current season of his show. He said on Oct. 5 he was thinking of running; the following weekend's episode, which aired on Oct. 7, showed little change in the ratings.

Trump's climb in the polls also lagged behind this season's highest-rated episode. By the time CNN released its April 9-10 poll showing Trump tied for first, his ratings had begun to slide, falling to 8.2 million for the week of April 10. They slid further last Sunday.

There are five weeks remaining in this season of "The Apprentice." The series finale is sure to enjoy a bounce in ratings, too — from political reporters, if no one else. Trump's advisers have said he'll use the finale to declare the date, time and place of a press conference at which he’ll announce his 2012 plans.

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