Netflix might have struck a multiyear creative partnership with Barack and Michelle Obama last year, but another streaming service has beaten it to the punch when it comes to actually airing a series starring a U.S. president.
Beginning today, all 15 seasons of The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice—the reality franchise that helped put Donald Trump on the path to the presidency—are streaming on Tubi, the free, ad-supported steaming service.
Tubi is the exclusive home to The Apprentice, including all 14 seasons hosted by Trump as well as the Arnold Schwarzenegger-fronted Season 15, as part of a new content deal with MGM Television, which owns the rights to the series.
“In our quest to democratize content and make more premium content accessible, we are making a big push into the reality television space,” said Tubi CEO Farhad Massoudi in a statement.
In The Apprentice, which premiered in 2004, several business people or celebs would compete in a variety of business-related tasks each week, with Trump dramatically sending one contestant packing during a boardroom meeting at the end of each episode with the proclamation, “You’re fired!”
Tubi is one of several advertising video on demand (AVOD) platforms—including Pluto TV, Xumo and the Roku Channel—that have been quietly, yet rapidly, gaining momentum in the OTT space over the past year as the retro notion of free TV, with ad loads that are roughly half of the linear average, has emerged as a lucrative and essential component of the industry’s streaming future. It can be accessed via several connected-TV devices and smart TVs, as well as on mobile and desktop.
“This is going to be the biggest year for AVOD to date,” Massoudi told Adweek last month in a cover story about AVOD. “For years, I was preaching AVOD, and no one was listening. So this is such an exciting moment.”
Tubi and its AVOD peers have been capitalizing on the decision of Netflix and other SVOD (subscription video on demand) services to shrink their library content as they focus on creating original series and movies.
That leaves room for Tubi, which is spending more than $100 million this year licensing movie and TV shows, to “aggregate the 99% of content that’s non-original and non-exclusive” to SVODs, said Massoudi. Prior to today’s Apprentice deal, Tubi had recently acquired rights to early seasons of The Bachelor franchise and an NBCUniversal package including Xena: Warrior Princess, The A-Team and Magnum, P.I.
The Apprentice was a huge ratings hit for NBC in its early seasons, but Trump would frequently lie about his show’s ratings as they began declining in later years. During a surreal Television Critics Association’s winter press tour session in 2015, Trump proclaimed that The Celebrity Apprentice was “the No. 1 show on television.” In fact, the show tied for 41st place that season in the adults 18-49 demo, and placed 67th in total viewers.