Duck Dynasty was once a cable television powerhouse, but the reality show has been steadily bleeding viewers ever since a controversy with the loose-lipped Phil Robertson and experts say it could be headed toward cancellation.
In an interview late last year, the show’s patriarch disparaged homosexuals and seemed to deny that blacks were mistreated in the pre-Civil Right south. Phil was suspended by A&E for nine days, and production of the show continued.
Now the once No. 1 reality show has sunk in the ratings, losing roughly two-thirds of their audience since hitting 12 million viewers last year.
Experts say the drop is likely not related to the Phil Robertson controversy, but instead just the natural life cycle of a reality show.
Jeffrey McCall, a media studies professor at DePauw University, implied that Duck Dynasty could be in its final throes.
“These kinds of ‘reality’ shows based on unique or unusual people usually don’t have great staying power,” McCall said. “‘Once viewers have seen the personalities and their lifestyles, the audiences tend to move along… Duck Dynasty has already beaten the odds by getting into Season 6.”
Duck Dynasty has faced cancellation rumors before. Shortly after the Phil Robertson controversy broke there were reports that A&E was close to ending the show, but that eventually blew over.
But experts say the show’s marketability has been able to save it from cancellation, at least until this point.
“It’s a strong, strong franchise and will continue for a number of years,” said David McKillop, executive vice president and general manager of A&E Networks, told the Los Angeles Times.
Forbes estimated last year that Duck Dynasty was worth about $400 million to A&E just in merchandising. The show has a host of licensed products, from beef jerky to school folders and notebooks.
It’s possible that if Duck Dynasty is canceled, the show’s stars could live on via a number of spin-off series. Much like the Kardashian family has created an empire of reality shows stemming from the flagship Keeping Up With The Kardashians, executives at A&E are already looking into the possibility of some other variations.
So even if Duck Dynasty ends up being canceled, it seems the spirit of the show and the Robertson family will continue on.