According to the LA Times, reality TV ratings have taken an unexpected slump. This could spell very bad news for the Robertson family and A&E, the home of their hit reality show. Duck Dynasty ratings have plunged, even though they are still high by cable standards.
“Reality TV was supposed to be a long-term fix to the problems of television, but that optimism was misguided,” said Jeffrey McCall, a media studies professor at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. “Program executives overestimated the true value of the commodity and drove the genre into the ground.”
The plummeting of reality TV viewership is most likely due to several different factors. For starters, too many copycat shows and too few original concepts left viewers bored. Additionally, shows which aired too many times did so at their own peril. For example, American Idol, which once aired as many as three times a week, has since been scaled back to one weekly time slot after ratings slipped drastically low last season.
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The news isn’t all bad for reality TV, though. TV executives have pointed out that the broadcasters probably wouldn’t be able to stay in business without unscripted series. As overall network viewership has declined in the face of competition from cable and the Internet, ad income has stagnated. While Duck Dynasty ratings may not be as great as they once were, they are still much better than most other reality shows.
Reality TV is also much less expensive to produce than scripted comedies or dramas. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the reality business,” conceded Paul Telegdy, NBC’s president of alternative and late-night programming. Still, broadcasters are scheduling fewer unscripted series. This fall, a total of 13 hours per week were devoted to reality shows collectively on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. That’s a steep drop from 20 hours in 2011, reports the Times.
Even if Duck Dynasty one day no longer airs, which – let’s face it – is inevitable, we think the Robertson family will be just fine. They were wealthy before their reality show made them all household names, and now they have enough money to support several generations of future ducklings. Willie Robertson, CEO of the family business, has admitted that they were quite happy before their show came about, even revealing that it was never their idea to star in a reality TV series to begin with. Rather, the family was approached by network execs who saw their potential for stardom, which was completely unsolicited.
Duck Dynasty is one of our favorite TV shows, unscripted or not. Do you think the show is in trouble? Sound off in the comments section!