When Duck Dynasty kicks off Season 5 on Wednesday (A&E, 10 p.m. ET/PT), will it be dead in the water?
In a new promo, the show teases the introduction of little-known family member Rebecca Robertson and promises "another new family member" will be stirring things up. If anything, the Dynasty drama is expanding its story lines.
"We're just glad to be back at work, and A&E and us are fine," Willie Robertson, one of the main stars of the show, told Bill Hemmer and Elisabeth Hasselbeck during Fox's All-American New Yearspecial on New Year's Eve.
Off the air, the pre-holiday flap that erupted over patriarch Phil Robertson's anti-gay quotes in a GQinterview isn't expected to make a dent in viewership or advertising, according to industry experts.
"I'd guess the core audience — never mind the people who want to show their support for him— will keep watching and keep the series ratings high," says Andy Dehnart, editor of Realityblurred.com.
And Eric Schiffer, of Reputation Management Consultants, based in Orange County, Calif., says he thinks it will even boost numbers.
"Their core demo is more enthused and rallied than ever before. And I think it's widened the show's awareness to people who have never watched it," he says. "Even for those in the gay and lesbian community, from the qualitative and quantitative research I've seen, it hasn't turned anyone off. The ones (who) watch are not going to stop watching. Those that didn't are actually going to check it out. The ducks are flying."
GLAAD, the gay-rights organization that was quick to condemn Robertson's remarks and call the show "a stain" on A&E, has not spoken about the incident since then. Yahoo reported that A&E and GLAAD are set to meet this week for a flap follow-up, but A&E would not comment on the report.
Schiffer adds, "No one's taking the position that gay and lesbians shouldn't be respected, that the gay and lesbian community doesn't have a legitimate basis to be considered in a dignified fashion in all ways. What they're saying is the man has the right to believe what a set of writings has said for thousands of years."
Ratings-wise, says Schiffer, "I think you're going to see the ball hit out of the stadium."
Duck is already a numbers powerhouse. The show ranks as the No. 2 series on cable TV, behind The Walking Dead, and is among the top 30 of all TV shows with an average of 13.4 million viewers.
Ad spending for Duck more than quadrupled from 2012 to 2013, according to Kantar Media, a New York company that tracks ad spending. From January-September 2012, a little more than $17 million was spent. For the same time period in 2013, Dynastydrew nearly $80 million in advertising revenue. There have been no reports on advertisers withdrawing because of the flap. (A&E would not comment on advertising.)
"Ad spending has been pretty consistent on the show. It seems that advertisers are not backing away or backing out since this all went down," says Robert Tuchman, president of New York-based entertainment and sports marketing company Goviva. He, too, expects healthy ratings for the premiere, even though Robertson's remarks may have prevented a broader audience from tuning in.
"Absolutely it has alienated certain viewers who don't want to watch the show because of the comments he made," says Tuchman. "Though it's also those same comments that make people want to tune in and see what this person is all about."
Dynasty is also a merchandising cash cow, withForbes reporting that Duck product tie-ins were expected to tally more than $400 million for 2013. During the height of the controversy, Cracker Barrel pulled show products from its shelves, but after two days and much consumer outcry, the company quickly restored the goods.
Don't expect this season to show the family responding to the flap: All but one episode had completed filming. A new season of Duck Dynasty is set to start production in the spring.