The two-hour finale of “The Apprentice” didn’t disappoint its corporate bosses at NBC on Thursday, delivering the network’s highest-rated telecast on any night in 18 months.
The 9-11 p.m. finale, which saw 32-year-old Chicago entrepreneur Bill Rancic emerge the victor of the 13-week competition among 16 contestants to survive in Donald Trump’s corporate jungle, averaged 27.6 million viewers and 13.5 rating/34 share in the adults 18-49 demographic, according to preliminary estimates from Nielsen Media Research.
That’s strong enough to make the “Apprentice” finale the third-highest rated entertainment program of the season, behind February’s Academy Awards telecast on ABC and CBS’ post-Super Bowl premiere of “Survivor: All-Stars,” according to NBC. “Apprentice” viewership peaked in the 10-10:30 p.m. half-hour at 29.3 million viewers and 14.5/36 in 18-49.
CBS’ 9 p.m. anchor “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (23.6 million, 7.7/19) performed admirably under the circumstances but clearly took a hit from the lure of “Apprentice.” The same was true at 10 p.m. for CBS’ “Without a Trace” (17.4 million, 5.2/13), which nonetheless retained a good chunk of its “CSI” lead-in.
At 8 p.m., CBS ruled with “Survivor: All-Stars” (20 million, 7.4/22), but it also faced atypical competition in the from the half-hour results edition of Fox’s “American Idol” (14.9 million, 6.0/19), which was bumped out of its regular Wednesday time slot when Fox shuffled its primetime lineup to make room for President Bush’s live primetime news conference on Tuesday. That marked the lowest numbers for any “Idol” episode this season, but a valiant showing given the competition, which also included NBC’s back-to-back “Friends” reruns (15 million, 6.5/19), and the hasty scheduling shifts that Fox and other networks grappled with this week.
ABC, which has a hard time on Thursdays under the best of circumstances, punted against the unusually strong competition with a repeat of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” a fresh installment of “Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital” and newsmagazine “Primetime Thursday” yielding a nightly average of 5.1 million viewers and 1.7/4 in adults 18-49.
NBC won the night by a comfortable margin in total viewers (23.4 million) and adults 18-49 (11.1/29). CBS was No. 2 with 20.3 million viewers and 6.8/18 in adults 18-49, followed by Fox (7.9 million, 3.2/9).