The bearded stars of "Duck Dynasty" are asking for a big pay increase to return to A&E's top-rated series, and the salary standoff is holding up a fourth-season renewal of the show, sources tell THR.
The Robertson family, including brothers Phil and Si and Phil's sons, have seen their outdoorsman empire, Duck Commander, earn a small fortune thanks in part to notoriety from the hit reality series. Now they have banded together and -- represented by WME -- are angling to renegotiate their existing contracts. Sources close to the negotiation say the family is asking for more than $200,000 an episode from A&E and production company Gurney Productions to return for a fourth season, with additional raises for subsequent seasons.
The standoff comes as little surprise given the success of "Duck Dynasty." Season 3 bowed in February to a whopping 8.6 million viewers and a 3.9 rating among adults 18 to 49. In the key demo, "Duck Dynasty" is second only to AMC's "The Walking Dead" on all of cable and tops all broadcast offerings in its 10 p.m. Wednesday slot.
Hit reality shows have a history of salary stalemates. For instance, the cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore" held up production in 2010 while demanding a 200 percent raise for its third season and beyond. Discovery's "Deadliest Catch" cast quit the show amid a 2010 lawsuit and pay dispute, then "un-quit" when the spat was resolved. Some networks, like Discovery with Bering Sea Gold, have tried to combat plays for triple-digit pay increases by locking casts into five-year contracts early on, but renegotiations are common on hit shows after the second or third seasons. A&E declined comment, but a source says the network does not recoup as much of its investment in its reality stars as some of its competitors, such as Bravo with its post-Bethenny Frankel "Real Housewives."
A&E owns no stake in the Robertsons' various branding efforts, their duck-call business or any of or their frequent speaking engagements at religious and business events, the latter of which alone have netted them tens of thousands of dollars. Still, given the show's breakout-hit status, a resolution seems a must for A&E. Says a source close to the dealmaking, "It'll all get worked out."
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