A&E had the competition ducking for cover Wednesday, as its redneck reality smash “Duck Dynasty” kicked off its new season with a whopping 11.8 million viewers — the largest audience ever for a non-fiction cable series.
The show about a Louisiana family also set an A&E record as the biggest telecast in the network’s history in all key demos.
In adults 18-49, “Duck Dynasty” did a huge 5.0 rating (roughly 6.3 million viewers in the age group), up 26% from last year and a higher same-night rating than any series telecast on television since an April 15 episode of NBC’s “The Voice.”
The only cable reality show to ever draw more adults 18-49 was TLC’s “Jon & Kate” in June 2009 (6.5 million).
Among adults 25-54, “Duck Dynasty” drew 6.3 million viewers to top the previous cable reality record set by “Trading Spaces” nearly 10 years ago.
When it bowed in March 2012, it drew a ho-hum 1.81 million viewers, but that increased with its second season in October of last year (3.94 million) and then more than doubled when it opened season three in February of this year (8.62 million).
The third season of “Duck Dynasty” averaged 8.4 million total viewers, up 95% compared to season two. It is cable’s top reality program this year, and the No. 2 original series overall, behind only AMC juggernaut “The Walking Dead.”
Thanks in large part to “Duck Dynasty,” A&E ranked among the top five cable networks in both adults 18-49 and 25-54 for the second quarter of this year — rising 17% in both categories — while placing sixth in total viewers (up 19%).
“Duck Dynasty” was far and away the No. 1 program in all categories, including adults 18-49 (7.51 million or 5.9 rating) and total viewers (13 million), according to live-plus 7 Nielsen data.