Is “Duck Dynasty” going to be sent quacking?
FOX411 has learned that execs at the A&E cable network are shopping for a new reality show starring “Christian talent” to follow the success of “Duck Dynasty,” a reality series about a family of religious bearded duck call manufactures.
While still wildly popular, viewership is down for the fifth season of “Duck Dynasty,” with ratings falling to its lowest point since 2012. The show has lost almost 2 million viewers week to week, with just 6.65 million tuning in to watch the most-recent, Jan. 22, episode.
In contrast, nearly 12 million viewers tuned in to see patriarch Phil Robertson and Miss Kay renew their wedding vows during the fourth season premiere.
Last month, Phil stirred up a scandal when GQ magazine published an interview with the patriarch, in which he made controversial statements about homosexuality and African-Americans. The remarks prompted A&E to put Robertson on a brief hiatus.
“I would suspect that many people felt that some of the comments that were made by Mr. Robertson were hurtful to other people in one way or another, and that they didn’t have an interest in pursuing that kind of hurtful exchange,” Joyce S. Dubenksy, of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, said of the “Duck Dynasty” ratings decline.
It is unclear if the controversy is responsible for the dip in ratings, as the show was trending downward by the end of last season. But perhaps in anticipation of its eventual cancellation, some entertainment industry observers believe that A&E is trying to retain and build on the Christian audience who became fans of “Duck Dynasty” by developing another reality series with similar values.
“We’ve had several people who watch the entertainment industry proclaim that this is the year of the Bible because there are all of these epic films in the works,” Melissa Henson, grassroots director for the Parents Television Council, told FOX411. “Russell Crowe is working on one, and there are a few faith-oriented films that are scheduled for release in 2014, which is fairly unusual. I suspect what’s happening is that there is this huge, untapped market that is potentially immensely profitable for the entertainment companies if they can create a product that would appeal to these viewers.”
Henson added that with some tweaking, it shouldn’t be too hard for A&E to replicate the winning “Duck Dynasty” faith-based formula.
“Perhaps they feel that they can get an even broader cross-section by maybe taking a different approach or focusing on a family from a different part of the country, or a different kind of family dynamic,” said Henson. “Last year, for example, there was a pretty good ratings success with the Mark Burnett and Roma Downing produced ‘Bible’ miniseries. They got really good ratings with that. So, I think what’s behind all this is that they’re recognizing the profit potential in catering to Christian audience and they’re trying to capture that market.”
Dubenksy, meanwhile, hopes that the network will try a different approach.
“Actually, it would be interesting to see A&E do something like 'Faith Swap,' a reality show where two congregations switch their preachers– or leaders– for one week,” she said. “The congregations could be of any background: Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, etc. It could make for pretty entertaining– and hopefully, enlightening– viewing.”
But the network is remaining tight-lipped about the new, unnamed Christian reality show. A rep for A&E told FOX411, “We don’t comment on shows in development.”