Industry experts expected a much better showing.
It looks like Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson's anti-gay sentiments and the controversy they created may have had a serious effect on viewers after all.
The Season 5 premiere on Wednesday of the A&E reality show drew 8.5 million viewers, down sharply from the nearly 12 million that tuned in for the Season 4 opener in August. Despite the decline, that's still a healthy number, but industry experts expected to see the same viewership as before, if not better. To be fair, last winter's premiere of the show drew 8.6 million viewers.
The premiere, titled "Boomerang Becca," focused on Rebecca Robertson, an exchange student Willie and Korie adopted 10 years ago, who returned from fashion interning in Los Angeles after two years. Also new to the gang was John David, a relative of Korie's who was the focus of the second episode of the night, taking the job of Willie's new assistant.
Patriarch Phil didn't have a huge role, but did appear in the opening scene of the first episode and closed out the second with one of the family's famous prayers.
Duck Dynasty is ranked as the No. 2 series on cable TV, behind The Walking Dead, with an average of 13.4 million viewers.