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How Did the Phil Robertson Controversy Affect 'Duck Dynasty' Ratings? The Numbers Show a Significant Move Deadline

The A&E reality show "Duck Dynasty" returned to the air Wednesday night for the first time since the show's patriarch, Phil Robertson, became embroiled in a politically charged controversy over comments he made that offended gay people and African-Americans.

So did the controversy help pump up ratings, as many predicted it would? Apparently not. Deadline.com reports that the numbers were down significantly.

"A&E’s flagship reality series clocked 8.5 million viewers Wednesday night, snapping a streak of ratings records and posting its first season-to-season drop," the story reports. "Among adults 18-49, the premiere averaged 4.2 million viewers, down 33%. Those are still huge numbers for a cable series, but the Season 5 opener was down from the show’s Season 4 debut, which drew nearly 12 million to become the No. 1-rated nonfiction series telecast in cable history."

Wednesday's show did squeak past the season four finale, which drew an audience of 8.4 million. A recent "Duck Dynasty" Christmas special delivered a little less than 9 million viewers.

"The two back-to-back episodes were the first appearance on A&E of the Robertson family since patriarch Phil’s controversial comments about gay men and African-Americans in a GQ interview, which caused A&E to suspend Phil," the report notes. "After the rest of the family indicated they would not do the show without him, and religious organizations and a legion of conservatives stood by him, A&E reversed its decision, lifting Phil’s suspension."

The article notes that the season's initial episodes, and almost all of the episodes for this season, were shot before the controversy erupted in December, and the show did not address the issue.

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