ITS celebrity version may have fallen by the wayside, but this year's instalment of 'The Apprentice' has signed up almost all its crucial task sponsors and is well on the way to sealing a deal with a flagship sponsor to replace departing Meteor.
Larry Bass, head of the hit show's independent production company Screentime Shinawil, says he's "nearly there" in terms of Gold Level task sponsors.
The Gold Level packages have a rate card of €130,000 -- between 12 and 14 of them are expected to be sold depending on how many episodes the show runs with this time round.
"We've been really impressed with the number of renewals we've been getting," says TV3 commercial boss Pat Kiely, who is also across the talks.
"In some cases brands have even had to be turned down because they don't have a new task that will work for the show."
Kiely and Bass both cite the efforts to fill the Gold slots as the reason why 'The Apprentice' flagship sponsorship remains on the market.
"The overall sponsor doesn't have to be in place until September," Bass stresses, adding that he's in talks with "more than three" brands about a possible deal.
While Meteor used humorous stings to leverage their 'Apprentice' investment, Bass says this year could see a completely different model.
"We're telling people they should let their imagination go wild, lets really see what we can do here," he says, adding that he's "absolutely confident" a sponsor for the show will be in place before curtain up. The apparently roaring success of the traditional 'Apprentice', however, looks unlikely to trigger the kind of complementary shows seen in other markets.
Efforts to arrange a celebrity version fell by the wayside -- "the schedules didn't work and we didn't want to go forward with it unless it was 100pc correct", says Bass.
And following the UK down the 'Junior Apprentice' road looks unlikely too. Kiely points out that the Irish ad market is unlikely to be able to support a second show, while Bass is blunter
"I'm not a big fan [of the Junior version]," he says. "[It's] a show full of precocious public school kids, I'm not sure there'd be much interest in that here."