Cable vs. Broadcast: 'Duck Dynasty' Beats Dick Wolf's 'Chicago Fire' in Ratings

Duck Dynasty Key Art - P 2012
A&E Network

Duck Dynasty Key Art - P 2012

This story first appeared in the Nov. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The broadcasters' largely lackluster fall season has been a boon to cable ratings. Numbers no one would have imagined just a few years ago now come in the oddest places, from TLC's Breaking Amish outperforming several Big Four scripted dramas to FX's Sons of Anarchy running over ABC's Dancing With the Stars. Here is a look at five of the more improbable smackdowns.

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1 SUNDAYS AT 9 P.M. AMC's Oct. 14 premiere of The Walking Dead (5.8 rating in the 18-to-49 demo) not only outrated everything except football in its time slot, the strongest scripted bow of the fall topped the premieres of ABC's hyped dramas Last Resort (2.2) and Castle (2.1) and NBC's 30 Rock (1.4) combined.

2 SUNDAYS AT 10 P.M. The reality series Breaking Amish pulled in a 1.3 18-to-49 rating for its Oct. 14 episode, nearly matching direct competition in ABC's pricey and hyped freshman drama 666 Park Avenue (1.5).

3 TUESDAYS AT 10 P.M. Sons of Anarchy (a 2.3 on Oct. 9) dominates all of its broadcast competition -- including CBS' Vegas (2.0), NBC's Parenthood (2.0) and ABC's Private Practice (1.6) -- and regularly outperforms Dancing With the Stars' results show (2.2) that airs earlier in the night.

4 WEDNESDAYS AT 10 P.M. Back-to-back episodes of A&E's Duck Dynasty (1.7 and 1.8) bested NBC's high-profile Dick Wolf drama Chicago Fire (1.5) in a direct showdown Oct. 17 (not to mention topping every NBC comedy except The Office, Go On and The New Normal).

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5 THURSDAYS AT 10 P.M. Even Snooki is matching wits with Sherlock Holmes. The Oct. 4 return of MTV's Jersey Shore, though down nearly 40 percent from last season to a 2.5 rating, still tied direct competition in the second episode of CBS' Elementary.