TLC series plummets despite controversy

All-American Muslim” may be disproving that old saying about bad publicity.

Although the TLC series filled the headlines all of last week after protests erupted over the withdrawal of advertisers including home-improvement chain Lowe’s, Sunday’s episode actually experienced a significant ratings decrease.

The Dec. 18 episode plummeted over 30% versus the previous week’s episode, which registered 900,000 total viewers. And ratings for the Dec. 11 episode itself could have benefited from increased visibility for “Muslim” given the controversy was starting to gather steam, particularly on Twitter, several days earlier, though didn’t truly explode into the mainstream press the following week.

The past two episodes of “Muslim” are trending below the season average for the series, which is over 1 million total viewers. The series, an unscripted look at a group of Muslim-American families living in Dearborn, Mich., launched Nov. 13 to 1.7 million.

“Muslim” vaulted onto the national stage earlier this month when Lowe’s confirmed it yanked ads from the series after being contacted by Florida Family Assoc., an organization that criticized the series for being “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”

Though Lowe’s clarified that its decision was not prompted by any one group, the company was bombarded by complaints that spilled over from social media to its stores, where picketers assembled in cities including Detroit and Brooklyn, N.Y.

Select politicians and celebrities have also joined the chorus of protesters.

Kayak.com, another advertiser on the series that withdrew its ads, issued a blog post on the company’s site suggesting the cable network, owned by Discovery Communications, was looking to milk publicity for “Muslim” from the controversy. “Sadly, TLC is now enjoying the attention from this controversy,” wrote Kayak chief marketing officer Robert Birge in the post.

The “Muslim” ratings downturn is bound to enter the ongoing debate over whether social media has any impact on TV ratings. While programmers are dedicating increasing resources to getting the word out for their shows on Twitter and Facebook, research has offered mixed messages as to whether there’s much of a connection between online chatter and viewing habits.

It’s possible that “Muslim” was affected by the seasonal lag that impacts many shows this time of year; TLC’s entire Sunday primetime schedule saw its ratings soften, according to a spokeswoman. “Muslim” did actually hold relatively steady in the 18-49 demo, ticking down from .41 to .4 week over week.

TLC has yet to indicate whether “Muslim,” which was an eight-episode order, will be renewed for another season.

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