Throughout the two-week period in December when the Duck Dynasty controversy took over the news media, there was just one thing that everyone on every side of the brouhaha could agree on: The controversy was going to be huge for the show’s ratings, with the A&E reality show’s fired-up supporters sure to tune in in record numbers once the series returned. Some even speculated that the whole thing was a publicity stunt, ginned up for that very reason.
Actually, everybody was wrong.
Duck Dynasty’s season premiere Wednesday notched 8.5 million viewers, according to Entertainment Weekly. That’s certainly a huge number by any traditional cable TV standard- but it’s actually a 28 percent decline from the previous season’s premiere, last August. The season before that had posted an 8.6 million number.
The battle over Duck Dynasty family patriarch Phil Robertson’s anti-gay comments in an interview with GQ was a significant culture war flashpoint, eventually won in favor of the pro-Robertson side when his suspension from the show was overturned after a week. But the non-record ratings perhaps indicate that culture war solidarity isn’t as strong a force as some thought- or possibly that enough time had passed since the controversy that most concerned had moved on from it.