Duck Dynasty smashed records with its Season 4 premiere on Wednesday, drawing 11.8 million viewers and setting a new standard for reality programming.
The numbers were up by more than 30 percent from last year’s season debut, and made Duck Dynasty the top-rated non-fiction broadcast in cable history.
On its face, Duck Dynasty would seem an unlikely hit. The show features the gruff but wholesome Robertson family, who run the multi-million dollar duck call company Duck Commander company. It chronicles their adventures in various outdoor endeavors, featuring a family that self-identifies as rednecks.
It’s a show that star Jase Robertson thought might never make it.
“My dad (Phil) echoed that,” he told USA Today. “I think he said something along the lines of ‘A redneck family, they’re not going to run that.’ “
But the show seems to only be growing in popularity for A&E, and the stars of the show have proven to be a popular draw as well. They’re now in high demand for talk show appearances and even hosted the 2013 K-LOVE Fan Awards for Christian contemporary music.
Duck Dynasty broke other records in its debut this season. The show’s previous high was 9.6 million viewers, set as last season came to a conclusion in April. It has also helped A&E top total ratings for the coveted 18-49 and 25-54 demographics.
It’s been a boon for the stars as well. Willie Robertson, the CEO of Duck Commander, is getting some interest for a possible Congressional run in his native Louisiana. The family itself is also recording a Christmas album, naturally titled Duck The Halls, which will be out later this fall.
After Duck Dynasty broke records for ratings, it seems the show and the family still has room to rise, and A&E has compensated the Robertsons nicely to keep them on the air. The stars of the show went through negotiations this summer, with the cable network ultimately agreeing to pay them each $200,000 per episode.