Phil Robertson Flap Stings A&E

Demo drops 22 percent following Duck Dynasty star’s suspension

While Duck Dynasty isn’t expected to return to A&E until mid-January, the flap over the network’s suspension of Phil Robertson already seems to have taken a bite out of its ratings performance.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, in the days after the Duck Dynasty patriarch was benched for his anti-gay remarks to GQ writer Drew Magary, A&E experienced a significant downturn in its deliveries. In the week of Dec. 16-22, A&E averaged 1.51 million viewers in prime time, down 13 percent from 1.73 million in the year-ago period.

The target demos took a bigger hit, as adults 25-54 dropped 22 percent to 678,000, while members of the 18-49 set fell 18 percent to 646,000.

Total-day deliveries also slumped, as overall viewers were down 11 percent to 792,000, while adults 25-54 dropped 20 percent to 361,000. A&E’s standing among adults 18-49 declined 15 percent to 367,000.

Robertson was suspended on Wednesday, Dec. 18; as such, the controversy overshadowed five of the seven rated days. Since A&E announced that it had put the Duck Commander founder on "hiatus," some 250,000 fans have signed the "I Stand With Phil" petition

In the short term, A&E sibling network History hasn’t been affected by the PR firestorm. History’s prime-time deliveries last week improved 10 percent to 2.02 million viewers, making it the week’s fourth highest-rated ad-supported cable network on the dial. The demos were largely unchanged, with adults 25-54 slipping 1 percent to 788,000, and 18-49s inching up 1 percent to 661,000.

Season to date, A&E is on track to close out 2013 up 10 percent to 1.8 million nightly viewers, making it the No. 6 ad-supported net on cable. Adults 25-54 are up 5 percent to 866,000 viewers (No. 6), and 18-49s improved 6 percent to 812,000.

A&E this year is expected to crack the half-billion-dollar mark in annual ad sales revenue for the first time in its history. Through the first three quarters of 2013—a period that includes the entirety of Season 3 and the first six episodes of Season 4—Duck Dynasty has generated around $80 million in ad sales revenue, or about 16 percent of the network’s projected annual haul, per Kantar Media estimates.

Season 4 opened to a record 11.8 million viewers and a 5.0 in the 18-49 demo. Over the course of its 11-episode run, Duck Dynasty averaged 9.13 million viewers and a stellar 3.9 in the dollar demo. The only other regularly occurring cable series that out-deliver Duck Dynasty are AMC’s The Walking Dead, which averaged 13 million viewers and a staggering 7.3 in the dollar demo, and ESPN’s Monday Night Football, which scared up 13.7 million viewers and a 5.2 rating.

Season 5 of Duck Dynasty is set to premiere on A&E on Wednesday, Jan. 15. Nine of the 10 episodes ordered are in the can and Robertson features prominently in each one.