Last night’s season four premiere of Duck Dynasty not only made a case for America’s apparent obsession with bearded, twang-talking country folk (not to mention, turpentine), it also made a strong case for the influential relationship between Twitter and ratings.
The A&E show’s premiere shattered records by drawing in a whopping 11.8 million viewers for its one-hour debut at 10 p.m. That’s nearly 2 million more than its previous record, making it the most successful reality show in cable history. Compared to last season's premiere, Duck Dynasty grew 37% in total viewers, 29% in adults 25-54, and 26% in adults ages 18-49.
Meanwhile, it blew up on Twitter. Over the course of the night it inspired six different trending topics, including #RedneckRenewal (the name of the episode, which saw Phil Robertson and Miss Kay renew their wedding vows), #MountainMan, (one of the character’s names), and #DebbieGibson (the '80s pop star was referenced during the show). Gibson herself even tweeted:
Cast members also live-tweeted the episode; there were hashtag games; and influential Twitter fans were rewarded with custom content—such as Duck Dynasty photographs with the fan’s image photoshopped in. All this led to the premiere earning 53% of the share of TV buzz on all social media Wednesday night, according to a spokesman from A&E.
These results corroborate research published by Nielsen last week—stating that high Twitter activity can affect ratings—and give Twitter yet more currency in Hollywood, where it has become a de rigueur tool not just for marketing executives, but TV showrunners and producers. Although Facebook still outpaces Twitter when it comes to volume of TV fans, Twitter is seen as a platform for highly influential and engaged audiences, which are of great value to advertisers.
"I think for a while there, it was tough to convince people (in Hollywood) that Twitter conversation had enough scale to be meaningful," said Guy Slattery, executive vice president of marketing for A&E. "But now the Hollywood community is realizing that there is enough scale there, it can really impact their business."