Tonight, A&E will unveil the final episode on what will forever be known as The First Season of Duck Dynasty After Phil Robertson Gave That Interview. Much navel-lint gazing has occurred over this fifth season of the network’s flagship reality series, what with the Robertson family patriarch having spent his hiatus appearing in a GQ article comparing homosexuality to bestiality and reminiscing about the Jim Crow south. A&E suspended Phil, causing religious and conservative groups (and a swath of Fox News Channel talent) to rally around him, and his family to indicate they would not continue the show without him. A&E wrapped up the action-packed show hiatus by un-suspending Phil in time for the season debut, though it had virtually the entire season in the can.
This season opened on January 15 with 8.5 million viewers tuned in, snapping a streak of ratings records and posting the show’s first season-to-season drop. In the demo, the opening night’s 4.2 million viewers was down 33%. (Duck Dynasty’s Season 4 debut had drawn drew nearly 12 million to become the No. 1-rated nonfiction series telecast in cable history, edging the Season 4 finale, which was watched by 8.4 million. More recently, the one-hour Duck Dynasty Christmas special logged nearly 9 million viewers.) The second week of Season 5 continued the downward trend after Night 1, drawing just 6.7 million total viewers, down an eye-opening 21% from the season opener. And its 3.6 rating in the adults 25-54 demo was down a less-rough 14% from last week. By last week, the penultimate episode of this season clocked just 4.7 million viewers.
There are those who think Phil’s comments, which even his family acknowledged were “coarse,” and the blowback cost the show viewers, because the show had stopped quacking like other homespun reality series burning so bright in the cable TV firmament these days, and begin to Bible-thump like a religious parable. “Hooey,” say other pundits, who insist the show is simply playing out, ratings-wise, as would any other reality hit being run as aggressively in originals, and in repeats, as is Duck Dynasty on A&E – a sort of Make Hay While the Sun Shines play pattern. Additionally, that season-opening crowd of 8.5 million grew to 13 million when Live+7 viewing stats came in, they note. Likewise the second-week crowd of 6.7 million climbed to 10.8 million when L+7 viewing was factored in. Overall, this season — while nowhere near last season’s eye-popping average of nearly 15 million viewers — is on track to average more than 10 million viewers, making it no slouch in the cable ratings world.
Live+7 ratings for the first eight episodes of Season 5 are down by about 25% compared with the same episodes in Season 4. Here are the Live+7 numbers for the first eight original episodes:
ListenFirst Media, which aggregates digital data streams to measure brand performance, reports less growth of the show’s social media communities than the previous season and suggests social media can sometimes be a leading indicator of declining interest in a show. Here are the numbers:
It’s typical to see shows in later seasons experience declines in social community growth, ListenFirst Media’s Co-CEO Jason Klein noted. But Duck Dynasty’s decline is pretty dramatic, suggesting some falloff could be attributed to the Phil debate, he said. “While we don’t believe social indicators are always directly correlative with Nielsen ratings, it seems clear that in this case, the two are in sync,” he told Deadline.