By Hollie McKay, ,
Published May 02, 2016
The future of “19 Kids and Counting,” TLC’s long-running faith- and family-friendly reality show, remains undecided more than two weeks after it was revealed that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s son, Josh, molested several of his younger sisters when he was 15-years-old.
In an interview last week with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, Jim Bob and Michelle defended their handling of the situation a dozen years ago and seemed nonchalant about their future.
“We are fine whether they film us or not,” Jim Bob said. Michelle added that they are “at peace,” regardless of the show’s future.
During Friday’s interview daughter Jessa Duggar played mum on whether the show would continue, simply saying that "life goes on, really. We're not a TV family; we're a family who just happened to be on TV."
The key to keeping the Duggars on TV, of course, is advertising money. While many major advertisers have pulled away from the show itself – from Virgin Mobile to Geico to State Farm – it doesn’t mean they will pull away from the network altogether.
TLC immediately canceled all remaining episodes after the molestation reports emerged, but the show’s future remains unannounced. “19 Kids” is not currently in-production, thus the network has time to make an announcement about whether or not it will be discontinued.
The decision will likely come down to sponsor dollars, but there are still some options on the table, said Los Angeles-based entertainment attorney Julian Chan.
“It would either be possible to edit [Josh] out of the show or perhaps even have the show investigate the claims in the interest of ‘justice,’ as I imagine some people might be very interested in that.” Chan said.
Some industry experts say the program and any spinoffs – there have been reports that TLC was planning a show featuring Jill Duggar and her husband, Derick Dillard, and Jessa Duggar and her husband, Ben Seewald – could find a home on a faith-driven network or platform.
“If a faith-based organization feels that the Duggars have been wrongfully shunned, they might well be willing to give them an opportunity,” branding expert Jeetendr Sehdev, a professor of marketing at USC, told FOX411. “Media audiences are increasingly fragmented, and there could be a non-mainstream outlet that is willing to engage with them.”
But advertisers “will think twice” before supporting a spin-off, he added.
“It has less to do with the social media backlash and more to do with the serious nature of the molestation revelations and whether the scenarios could have been prevented that really has America rethinking the Duggar appeal,” he said.
The Duggar family has published three best-selling books about their life and family. Their publisher – Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster – did not respond to a request for comment.
“A publisher may be interested in a book from the family or a victim, but not from an abuser,” said Tampa, Fla.-based crisis management specialist Glenn Selig.
For several years the Duggar family has been active on the professional speaking circuit, discussing such issues as their Christian faith, parenting and reality television. According to Celebrity Talent, Jim Bob commands a minimum fee of $7,500 to $14,999 for domestic engagements and $15,000 to $24,999 for international gigs. The Celebrity Speakers Bureau says the fee for Jim Bob and Michelle ranges between $10,000 and $20,000.
Whether the Duggars will still receive bookings – or even seek higher fees in the wake of all the publicity – remains to be seen. According to Entertainment Weekly, “19 Kids and Counting,” is still TLC’s most popular show after 10 seasons, and probably its most lucrative, too. It made an estimated $25 million in ad revenue this year, which EW called “a massive profit margin considering TLC only pays the Duggars up to $40,000 per episode.”
But despite its success, some think it’s time to put the cash cow out to pasture.
“It would be wise for TLC to cancel the show at this point rather than hold off on making that decision,” Selig said. “Sexual abuse is a tough matter to overcome.”