As Duck Dynasty fans wait with excited anticipation for Wednesday night’s second episode of the new Season Five, broadcast industry observers are equally excited to see how many of those fans actually tune in.
Wednesday’s airing at 10 pm Eastern Time on the A&E Network will, in fact, be the third episode of Season Five. Last week’s season premiere saw Episodes One and Two aired back-to-back.
But despite the double-length Duck Dynasty extravaganza, rating were down sharply from the previous season’s opening week, leading those industry observers questioning whether the December scandal over anti-gay and racist comments made in a magazine interview by Duck Dynasty star Phil Roberston had eroded interest in the show.
“It looks like Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson’s anti-gay sentiments and the controversy they created may have had a serious effect on viewers after all,” wrote USA Today TV correspondent Ann Oldenburg.
The Huffington Post stated the matter more bluntly. “Fans no longer give a quack about Duck Dynasty.”
About 8.5 million viewers watched the January 15 premiere of Duck Dynasty Season 5, compared to 12 million who tuned in to the Season 4 opener in August. Was the drop attributable to Phil Robertson’s remarks and the ensuing firestorm they sparked, or something else?
Duck Dynasty runs seasons in the summer and winter. Last year’s winter premiere drew 8.6 million, not much different from the January 15, 2014 airing.
But according to Oldenburg, industry experts thought the audience for Duck Dynasty might actually go up after the Phil Roberston controversy. So the 3.5 million-viewer drop came as a shock. Those same industry-watchers will be keeping a close eye on the overnight ratings after Wednesday’s show.
Though the ratings are disappointing for A&E and the producers of Duck Dynasty, they are still healthy for a basic cable broadcast. Last Wednesday, both episodes of Duck Dynasty easily outpaced the night’s third-place finisher, the creepy genre drama American Horror Story. The 10 pm airing of American Horror Story on the FX Network drew just under 3.5 million, less than half of the Duck Dynasty audience.