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'Duck Dynasty' Returns to Solid Ratings After Anti-Gay Comment Controversy

January 17, 2014 (1:49 am) GMT
Season 5 of the reality show opened to 8.5 million viewers, slightly down from last year's premiere which drew 8.6 million viewers.

Most of "" fans apparently stick with the show despite recent controversy about 's homophobic comments. It's shown in the number of viewers tuning in to the reality series when the fifth season debuted on Wednesday, January 15.

The new season premiere posted 8.5 million viewers overall, slightly down from the season 3 premiere last February which lured in 8.6 million viewers. Compared to the fourth season opener which posted 11.8 million people on average, it's a big drop but the fourth season aired in the summer when there's little competition from other networks.

The current season, meanwhile, opened against "" season 13 premiere which, despite promising fresh twists, posted its lowest premiere rating ever. The singing competition series delivered 15 million viewers and a 4.6 rating in adults 18-49 demo, down 23 percent from last year.

A&E briefly suspended Phil Robertson from "Duck Dynasty" late last year following his anti-gay comments on GQ magazine. Now new report says several networks, including ABC and CBS, are upset that the cable channel lifted the suspension of the Robertson patriarch.

"Several high-ranking executives have expressed upset over the way this all played out. The network execs think that in allowing Phil to come back so quickly and seamlessly, without apology, sets a bad standard," a source tells FOX411. "The standard being that talent can say whatever offensive thing they want about gay people or other groups and get away with it. No consequences."

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