‘Duck Dynasty’: Advertisers Paying Big Bucks Despite Controversy

Duck Dynasty

A&E reality show commands higher rates than 'NCIS,' other broadcast series

What conflict? Advertisers are willing to pay more for a package of ads in A&E’s reality series “Duck Dynasty” than they are for a 30-second spot in plenty of other popular TV programs.

And marketers do not appear to be leaving “Duck Dynasty” despite the controversy stirred by star Phil Robertson with his remarks about gays and African Americans in a recent magazine interview. The fifth season of the show bows Jan. 15.

“Across our client base, it didn’t really reach the level of a reason to remove advertising – at least, not yet,” said one ad buyer, who noted sponsors would likely have been more alarmed had Robertson spoken out on the show rather than in GQ  magazine.

According to media buyers, a flight of commercials designed to accompany several airings of an episode of “Duck Dynasty” on A&E goes for $170,000 to $180,000. At those prices, the cost of a “Duck Dynasty” ad deal is more than the average price advertisers plunk down for a single 30-second commercial in such notable programs as CBS’ “NCIS” ($154,025); NBC’s “The Michael J. Fox Show” ($95,597); ABC’s “Nashville” ($107,721) and both editions of Fox’s “The X-Factor” ($166,601 on Wednesdays, $161,429 on Thursdays), according to a Variety survey of commercial prices for the 2013-2014 TV season.

“Duck Dynasty” has enjoyed a surge of ad revenue as its ratings spiked last year. In 2012, the show lured a little more than $40 million from sponsors, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. For the first nine months of 2013, “Duck Dynasty” attracted nearly $80 million. A spokesman for A+E Networks said the company declined to comment on ad prices for the show or conversations it may be having with sponsors.

To be sure, sponsors shell out more to appear in TV’s top-rated programs,which include AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” NBC’s “Sunday Night Football, CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and ABC’s “Modern Family.” But the willingness to open wallets to such a degree for a cable series suggests advertisers want the big audience numbers the show delivers.

The bearded characters of “Duck Dynasty” have captured the national fancy, particularly in heartland markets, since 2012. The series revolves around the home-spun antics of the Robertson family of West Monroe, La., and the rags-to-riches story of their duck-hunting supply business. The series’ fourth-season premiere in August captured 11.8 million viewers, and ratings stayed in the 10 million-11 million range for the rest of the run.

“Duck Dynasty” has also been a merchandising juggernaut for A&E and the Robertson clan. But things took a turn in December when GQ published inflammatory remarks from Phil Robertson about gays and African Americans. A+E Networks at first said it would suspend Robertson from the series, then made an about-face after that maneuver prompted outcry from supporters. The episodes premiering next week were filmed before the controversy erupted.

Marketers have proven willing in the past to ditch cable reality series that seemed likely to raise eyebrows. In late 2011, home-improvement retailer Lowe’s pulled its advertising from “All-American Muslim,”a reality series on TLC, citing complaints made by an advocacy organization known as the Florida Family Assn. The series followed the lives of a handful of Muslim families living around Dearborn, Michigan. The decision sparked backlash, and other advertisers continued to support the program. Even so,”All-American Muslim” was canceled in Spring 2012.

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  1. Brenda rice says:

    I think we need to have more people in the world who are honest and share about the Lords love for each of us

  2. Monica Bunting says:

    This show has never hidden the fact that they pray and are Christian. So to be surprised by his comments is ridiculous! I will discontinue watching A&E if this continue to be an issue. And this includes seeing Phil and Kay!

  3. Rosita Asano says:

    @Alicia Lane your dad didn’t marry the white man, you did. I agree with Phil Robertson on everything that he said, and if the advertisers didn’t have a problem paying the cost of the ad hurray for them.

    • Alicia Lane says:

      Of course advertisers will pay for controversy that the channel themselves probably helped stir up. Highly doubtful that the target demographic of that show would do anything but agree with the statements of that man. And feel vindicated in the overall outcome of this.

  4. Jessa says:

    I guess what shocks me is claiming a man is racist when his son adopted a child who is half African American. And if anyone has purchased Silas Robertson’s book he makes clear statements about his childhood and being around black children.

    “Hey if you’re a Christian, racism is out.. We don’t even know what color Adam was”
    Si tells a story about how his father broke his back and it was the his African American friends who raised 200 dollars so they could have Christmas. So this “entitled white” stuff needs to stop.

    People are just latching onto a cause so they can make it public and raise more awareness. I support fighting racism but only when it’s legitimate.

  5. John Shea says:

    I’m a Catholic in a largely Catholic country, Ireland, but I strongly disagree with Phil Robertson’s judgment of gay and African-American people and I cannot imagine anyone I know here agreeing with him. Elections, referenda and opinion polls throughout the world show an ever increasing proportion of Christians supporting gay people and opposing racism.

  6. John Shea says:

    Could advertisers be paying big bucks BECAUSE of the controversy about this (un)reality show?

  7. jenna1087 says:

    I went to MIT and Harvard and live in liberal Massachusetts. I watch Duck Dynasty and I do not laugh at them. I actually envy their close knit family and my favorite part is when they pray at the table and eat dinner. They are fortunate to have each other. Everyone – lighten up. They are funny and I laugh and enjoy the program.

  8. Andrew Rawls says:

    Might want to double check your article as paragraphs #5 and #9 are identical. I guess this was by mistake?

  9. john egger says:

    Can you remind me please exactly what Phil’s comments were about African Americans. I don’t recall any negative remarks about African Americans

    • Alicia Lane says:

      His comment: “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

      • Thank you Alicia.
        Here I thought this Phil person might have been a racist as a youth from all the hoopla in the press.

        I was homophobic myself, until I met an openly “non-militant” gay and found that I could respect the person without compromising my beliefs.

        Now that I have earned wisdom the OLD fashioned way, what one believes in can and will change with age.
        Who here has not made mistakes in their youth? Heck… I still make ’em, just not as big :D


  10. Julienne says:

    If you don’t support FREE SPEECH…don’t watch.

    • Alicia Lane says:

      That’s not what free speech is – you can criticize someone’s speech. But the government cannot arrest you for it (in most cases). This is not about supporting free speech.

  11. Sam says:

    It’s really no surprise given it’s ratings. Cue the over zealous comments about freedom of speech and anti gay comments– people just love to exert how much they hate gays….

  12. geri031706 says:

    May we please have a list of those advertisers who choose to sell their wares on “Duck Dynasty”?

  13. Contessa46 says:

    Once again money talks. I myself have never watched this hillbilly nor do I subscribe to anything he has said. My guess is that the sponsors and producers are laughing at him not with him while taking it to the bank. You have captured a very specific market whose after market products will not show up in Saks, nor be on display at the museum. So enjoy this wave as most of America couldn’t care less about him, his show, nor your network.

    • Rod says:

      I would say that 14 million Americans cover a considerable portion of people who not only care about him and the show, but, they actually back it up by coming to his defense when he was discriminated against. What does Saks or your museum have to do with this? Did I miss something? Is Saks a prerequisite for having an opinion. You certainly are opinionated and don’t care who knows it. Does Phil Roberston not get the same courtesy? Contessa, you are a sad soul void of any reality. Do you realize this “hillbilly” has a Masters degree and ran a very successful business prior to the reality show? Why am I even wasting my time? Of course you don’t, you would rather generalize rather than actually do a shred of research before posting your ill-informed comment into cyberspace.

    • James Weatherwax says:

      Contessa, you and I are probably pretty much on the same page in our personal feelings. But the whole attitude of calling this guy a “hillbilly” and saying that they are laughing at him, while it might make us feel better on the coasts…is not really how middle America feels. It’s why so many people feel that Hollywood is out of touch with the “real” America…. because we think that anything that doesn’t appeal to a Saks buyer or a NY sophisticate isn’t worth airing. Unfortunately, belies it or not, we’re probably in the minority. I’ve never watched the show and I’m sure I never will. But I think it’s important to realize that our taste in programming on the coasts doesn’t necessarily reflect that of the Heartland. And that’s just a good thing to keep in mind. Remember, we thought The Bible miniseries would be a big bust….but there’s a big audience out there that we tend to forget about.

      • ChrisR says:

        Don’t lump everyone who lives “on the coasts” into your elitist, material world. I have lived on the East Coast my entire life and I support what Phil Robertson said. Then again, I read the entire interview, including the part where he stated how it is not our place to judge, and to love everybody equally.

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