A&E's "Duck Dynasty" wrapped a challenging season Wednesday by bouncing back from its two-year lows of the previous week but still coming in well down from last year.
According to Nielsen estimates, the fifth season-ender of "Duck Dynasty" averaged a 2.5 rating in adults 18-49 and 6 million viewers overall. The hourlong episode made A&E the network leader for all of television in the demo from 10 to 11 p.m., and marked week-to-week improvement of 32% in adults 18-49 (from 1.9 rating) and 27% in total viewers .
"Duck," which was embroiled in controversy over the holidays due to derogatory comments about gays and others made by family patriarch Phil Robertson, peaked with its fourth-season premiere last August (5.0 demo rating, 11.77 million viewers overall) -- the largest audience for a nonfiction series telecast in cable history.
"Duck Dynasty" also holds the cable reality record in adults 25-54 (6.3 million), topping the mark set by "Trading Spaces" nearly 10 years earlier. The only cable reality show to ever draw more adults 18-49 than last summer's "Duck Dynasty" premiere was TLC's "Jon & Kate" in June 2009 (6.5 million).
Last year among all cable series, only AMC's "The Walking Dead" did better in reaching adults 18-49.
"Duck," though, seemed to be cooling toward the tail end of last season, falling below 8 million a couple of times before closing with 8.4 million. January's fifth-season premiere ratings were lower than many expected, but above where the show closed last season and nearly on par with its winter bow of 2013.
Prior to Wednesday's season finale, "Duck Dynasty" was averaging a 2.6 rating in adults 18-49 and 6.3 million total viewers in same-night viewing -- down a third in the demo and nearly 30% from its 2013 averages (3.9 in the demo, 8.85 million total viewers).