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Cable Technology Feature Article

August 16, 2013

Duck Dynasty" Premiere Big Hit, Sets Record in Non-Fiction

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

For many, the story of a tight-knit Louisiana family who made it big with its selection of duck calls, known as “Duck Dynasty,” is not only familiar, but also fun to watch. Those who don't find it familiar, meanwhile, often enjoy it for its unexpected humor and uplifting messages, the protection of which is very important to many parents and grandparents who recently petitioned the FCC on decency standards. But regardless of how familiar “Duck Dynasty” may be, it's not only one of A&E's biggest shows, it's also one of the biggest shows on cable, as new numbers have emerged showing that the show's recent premiere was a record-breaker.

The new season's premier of “Duck Dynasty” drew in fully 11.8 million viewers, which represented the largest audience ever for a non-fiction series on cable. The 18-49 year old market demographic—one of the most prized—saw a massive 5.0 rating, which represents around 6.3 million people total. That's up a full 26 percent from a year ago, and beats the ratings for any series anywhere since the April 15 episode of “The Voice” on NBC. Only one cable reality show ever did better than this, an episode of “Jon & Kate” from June 2009, which pulled in 6.5 million people in the 18-49 year old demographic.

What's more, for the slightly modified 25-54 year old market, the “Duck Dynasty” premiere pulled in 6.3 million viewers, a feat which hadn't been accomplished since an episode of “Trading Spaces” from almost a decade prior.

With numbers like these in the picture, it's clear that A&E has a winner on its hands, and is aggressively pushing out episodes to take advantage of a hot property. The show's first season started just under 18 months ago, yet the series is already on its fourth season. The show has been steadily gaining in popularity, going from 1.81 million viewers in March 2012 to 3.94 million in October 2012, and then better than doubling that number to 8.62 million for the third season back in February 2013.

By way of comparison, there's only one series in all of cable that's doing better on average than “Duck Dynasty,” and it's AMC's hugely popular “The Walking Dead,” an adaptation of the graphic novel series of the same name. The success of “Duck Dynasty”, along with the success of shows like “Bates Motel” and the rest of A&E's lineup—featuring shows like “Storage Wars,”—are giving A&E a terrific run, leading A&E to be one of the top five cable networks for adults in both the 18-49 and the 25-54 demographics. Total viewership, meanwhile, has it in sixth place overall, up fully 19 percent.

Analysis of the series, meanwhile, has gone far and wide, with some believing that “Duck Dynasty” owes its success to its healthy, wholesome and often funny portrayal of a loving, God-fearing family that’s done well for itself. Others, meanwhile, are a bit more cynical in enjoying the series, thinking of it more as a freak show. While opinions about the series and the motivations for watching are both varied and diverse, it's clear that there are plenty of people tuning in to catch the various adventures—and misadventures—of the Robertson family, and A&E has a serious hit on its hands. Perhaps even the kind of hit that keeps people from turning to Netflix and Hulu (News - Alert) Plus alone for entertainment.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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