LOS ANGELES — The “Duck Dynasty” family and cable television’s A&E have lots of reasons to resolve the controversy sparked by patriarch Phil Robertson’s comments about gays: almost $500 million, in fact.
Robertson, 67, head of a Louisiana family that makes duck-hunting gear, was suspended indefinitely by A&E Television Networks after telling GQ magazine that homosexuals were akin to adulterers, the greedy, drunkards and swindlers and would not “inherit the kingdom of God.”
A&E is co-owned by Walt Disney Co. and Hearst Corp.
Robertson’s comments and suspension put at risk a show that has exploded in popularity since it began airing in 2012. “Duck Dynasty” has generated $400 million in merchandise sales, according to Forbes magazine. The show has produced almost $80 million in advertising sales for A&E this year through September, according to Kantar Media, a more than fourfold increase from a year earlier.
“ ‘Duck Dynasty’ is A&E’s biggest revenue generator and major viewer franchise,” said Porter Bibb, managing partner at Mediatech Capital Partners.
Bibb is confident the two sides will settle the controversy and save the show.
“You can count on that,” Bibb said. “America believes in second acts,” he added, predicting Robertson “will be given another chance.”
The audience for the program, a reality series following the antics of Robertson, his family and their Duck Commander business in West Monroe, La., has soared since the show’s debut. “Duck Dynasty” is averaging 14.6 million viewers an episode this season, according to Nielsen data.
The Robertson family, including the co-stars, said on their website, duckcommander.com, that “while some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible.”
The family also said they couldn’t imagine “Duck Dynasty” without their patriarch and that they were in talks with A&E about the show’s future.
In its statement, New York-based A&E said, “We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series ‘Duck Dynasty.’ His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the” lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community.