NEW YORK – The Donald is ready to do a new deal with NBC.
And it could cost NBC a mint — he might ask for as much as $1 million per episode, sources say.
"I think 'The Apprentice' and myself [on it] are long-term things," Trump told The Post yesterday. "I think it will continue to do well long term, I'm having fun doing it, I love working with NBC and I love working with Mark Burnett (search)."
Industry sources claim Trump is being courted by rival networks although none of NBC's competitors could confirm this yesterday.
It is estimated that Trump is paid about $100,000 per episode. He was able to renegotiate his original deal with NBC last April, essentially doubling his salary and pocketing roughly $3.2 million for the two seasons of the show airing this fall and winter.
At the time, sources close to Trump claimed he had inked a deal that paid him close to $1 million per episode.
Initially, Trump was paid about $50,000 per episode for the past season — but that didn't include the big bucks he gets to serve as the show's co-executive producer. Nor does it include the money Trump gets from his cut of "The Apprentice" merchandise.
If the ratings for "The Apprentice" keep up through next year, Trump might be able to dictate his own terms to return to the show since he'd basically become irreplaceable. Burnett had tried recasting his part for foreign versions of the series but hasn't had much luck finding a popular tycoon as telegenic as Trump.
And even with two "Apprentice" copycats on the way, Fox's "The Billionaire: Branson's Quest for the Best" with Virgin tycoon Richard Branson and ABC's "The Benefactor" (search) with dot-com billionaire Mark Cuban (search), Trump says his show will remain on top.
"The Branson show I hear is very different from 'The Apprentice' in that it's people jumping out of airplanes and stuff — I think it's more in the line of 'Fear Factor' and I never viewed the Cuban show as a threat. I feel he has no television persona, I don't feel he's got the charisma necessary to pull it off and I hear the show is not very good. Other than that, he's a wonderful guy."
Meanwhile tonight's debut will spawn a new toy for tots. In the episode, the candidates are split into teams and challenged to create a new toy for boys 5 to 8 years old.
The winning team's toy turned out to be so good, it's going to go into production for Mattel's Tyco division and is expected to hit store shelves by January 2005.