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President-elect Trump’s ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ deal may include money from brands

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NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22: President-elect Donald Trump walks through the lobby of the New York Times following a meeting with editors at the paper on November 22, 2016 in New York City. Trump, who has held meetings with media executives over the last few days, has often had a tense relationship with many mainstream media outlets. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump’s financial arrangement with “Celebrity Apprentice” could provide him with a cut of the money generated by NBC’s product integration deals for the show, a Hollywood source with direct knowledge of the arrangement told CNNMoney.

For years, Mr. Trump has received a portion of the revenue from the show’s product integration deals, the source said. If that arrangement is still in place, it is now a potential avenue of influence for companies that want to get the ear of Mr. Trump and his administration, and presents a thorny situation for Comcast/NBCUniversal, which controls the deals.

“If an advertiser wants to curry favor with Trump, that’s the way to do it,” the source said.

That could include brands owned by foreign companies; private equity firms, which have done deals with the show before; or defense contractors that also produce consumer goods. Any company like these might have a vested interested in getting in good favor with the 45th President of the United States.

In reality television, product integration refers to deals in which advertisers pay to place their products in a show. When contestants on “Celebrity Apprentice” are tasked with directing a commercial for a new OnStar product, creating a retail strategy for LifeLock or repackaging Omaha Steaks, that is product integration. In 2011, Ad Age reported that advertisers were paying between $5 million and $9 million to get their product integrated into a single episode.

The source could not confirm that the terms of the arrangement had not changed. NBC, the network that airs “Celebrity Apprentice,” did not respond to requests for comment. MGM, the company that owns the show, declined comment.

President-elect Trump will also retain his executive producer title on the show and, if the deal has not changed, will receive a fee for every episode that airs. As structured in the original arrangement, NBC pays the production company for rights to broadcast the show, and the production company pays the executive producer fee to Mr. Trump.

When “The Apprentice” debuted on NBC, in 2004, Mark Burnett Productions controlled the product integration deals and gave a cut of the profits to NBC. But several years ago, the source said, the arrangement switched: NBC took over integration, and sent a cut of the money to the production company. That money would then be distributed to partners in the show, including Mr. Trump. (MGM acquired Mark Burnett productions last year; Burnett himself is now president of MGM’s Television and Digital Group.)

There was one agreement covering both “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice,” the source said.

If that deal is still in place, the companies buying product integrations on “Celebrity Apprentice” will be indirectly paying money to the President-elect.

The President-elect Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment regarding the product integration revenue.

In response to a previous inquiry about Trump’s executive producer credit, Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks told CNNMoney: “Mr. Trump has a big stake in the show and conceived of it with Mark Burnett.”

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