Tubi inked a licensing pact for the show with MGM Television, giving the ad-supported VOD provider exclusive streaming rights to all 192 episodes. Tubi on Monday (May 6) is launching the full set, which includes the original Trump-fronted “The Apprentice” (6 seasons) and follow-on “Celebrity Apprentice” (8 seasons) as well as the single season of “The New Celebrity Apprentice” hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
It’s the first time that full seasons of “The Apprentice” and its offshoots have become available on any streaming service, although the show has been available on DVD. MGM, which is one of Tubi’s strategic investors, has previously licensed other titles to the startup. The studio owns the rights to “The Apprentice,” created by Mark Burnett, who is now chairman of MGM’s worldwide television group.
“In our quest to democratize content and make more premium content accessible, we are making a big push into the reality-television space,” Tubi founder and CEO Farhad Massoudi said in a statement, adding that the company expects to land more content deals “in the near future.”
The question is: How many people really want to watch reruns of “The Apprentice”? There’s certain to be some level of interest — from both Trump haters and fans alike — to revisit the show, which set the stage for his victory in the 2016 presidential election. “The Apprentice” portrayed Trump as a savvy business mogul who dismissed losing contestants with the curt catchphrase “You’re fired.”
The first season of “The Apprentice” in 2004 on NBC delivered an average weekly viewership of 20.7 million, giving the broadcaster a much-needed hit at the time. Trump claimed NBC paid him $213.6 million for his 14-season run on the show (critics have said he is lying about this) and he’s bragged that “The Apprentice” raised his profile and increased the value of the Trump brand.
In 2015, NBC kicked Trump off the show after he made racist comments about Mexican immigrants (labeling them criminals and “rapists”) as part of announcing his candidacy for U.S. president. In response, Trump said he was considering suing NBC and also claimed he had already informed the network he wouldn’t be returning to “Celebrity Apprentice” because of his presidential bid.
Allegations about Trump’s off-camera behavior related to the show have sparked controversies. Summer Zervos, a contestant in season 5, accused Trump of groping and forcibly kissing her in meetings after she appeared on “The Apprentice.” Trump asserted that she was lying, after which Zervos sued him for defamation in a case that remains pending. Omarosa Manigault Newman, the season 1 contestant who joined Trump’s White House as an aide (before she was fired), published a book last year alleging that Trump used the N-word multiple times and made other offensive comments on “The Apprentice” set. Trump has denied this.
Notable “Apprentice” contestants over the years have included Bill Rancic — winner of the freshman season — Piers Morgan, Joan Rivers, Bret Michaels, Arsenio Hall, Trace Adkins, Leeza Gibbons, Khloe Kardashian, Cyndi Lauper, Lil Jon, Vivica A. Fox and Geraldo Rivera.
Tubi’s pact for “The Apprentice” is the latest in a string of deals it has struck for older TV shows and films in recent months. Those include a bucket of 400 TV episodes and movies from NBCUniversal, including “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “The A-Team,” “Punky Brewster,” “The Incredible Hulk” and “Quantum Leap”; the first seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” and season 5 of “Bachelor in Paradise” from Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution; and all 100 episodes of “Anger Management” starring Charlie Sheen from Lionsgate.
Tubi has said it plans to spend over $100 million on content-licensing deals this year and touted record streaming growth in 2018. According to Tubi, its content library currently comprises over 12,000 movies and TV series, totaling around 40,000 hours of content. In addition to MGM, NBCU, WB and Lionsgate, it has licensed content from studios including Fox, Lionsgate and Paramount.
Currently, Tubi’s free AVOD service is available in the U.S. and Canada on more than 20 platforms. Those include its website (tubitv.com); apps for iOS and Android devices; Apple TV; Roku; Amazon’s Fire TV; Comcast’s Xfinity X1; Cox’s Contour; Xbox; and PlayStation 4.
The San Francisco-based company was founded in 2010 originally as AdRise, an ad-tech platform. The company launched Tubi TV in 2014. To date, it has raised $29 million from investors including MGM, Lionsgate, Tegna and several venture-capital firms. Last December, Tubi closed $25 million in debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank.