Wednesday's Duck Dynasty averaged 4.7 million viewers, the first time in over a year that the series has fallen below the 5-million mark. The new low comes on the heels of a fatigued season for the A&E juggernaut. It returned to 8.5 million viewers in January -- steadily dropping ever since.
PHOTOS: THR's Exclusive Portraits of the Duck Dynasty Cast
The softer fifth season, the first to air after star Phil Robertson's incendiary remarks about gay people and the Jim Crow South, is likely as much of a victim of gravity as it is of negative publicity. Duck Dynasty has been on a slow but steady decline since last summer, when it obliterated ratings records with 11.7 million viewers.
Back-to-back seasons in quick succession and aggressive repeats may also be coming into play. "What you're seeing is similar to what NBC is doing with The Voice: 'We have it. Let's use it while we can, and get what we can out of it,'"Sam Armando, senior vp and director of strategic intelligence at media-buying firm SMGx, told The Hollywood Reporter back at the start of the season. "If the ratings come down a little, it's because they're ready to -- not because of this controversy."
Duck Dynasty's drop in the key adults 18-49 demographic might be the most disappointing. Though the show still bested all of cable on Wednesday night, with an average 1.9 rating, it doesn't rank as the top reality show on cable so far this week. Sunday's Real Housewives of Atlanta, on Bravo, edged it out with a 2.0 in the demo.
If history is any guide, Duck Dynasty should see an uptick with its March 26 ender, but it seems safe to say that the series' glory days are now behind it.