The third season of the FX original drama Sons of Anarchy roared to life Tuesday night in front of one of its largest audiences to date, scaring up 4.13 million viewers between 10 p.m. and 11:13 p.m.
Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data, the Sons premiere now stands as the most-watched cable scripted series telecast of 2010 among the coveted TV demo, drawing 2.81 million viewers 18-49. Year-to-date, the August 26 mid-season finale of Burn Notice finished second among the demo with 2.7 million 18-49s.
Compared to the season two finale, which set a Sons high-water mark with 4.33 million total viewers, the Sept. 7 season opener dipped 5 percent. (Upon application of Nielsen live-plus-seven-day data, the Dec. 1, 2009, cliffhanger averaged 5.26 million viewers.) Sons put up its strongest demo performance with the Sept. 8, 2009, season two premiere, drawing 3.03 million 18-49s; last night’s delivery was down 7 percent from the series high.
Tuesday was a busy night for top-tier cable, as USA Network also served up some robust deliveries with its prime time originals. At 10 p.m., Covert Affairs drew 5.36 million viewers, second only to the 5.87 million it averaged on August 24. Of that total, 2.28 million were adults 25-54, 2.12 million were viewers 18-49 and 948,000 were part of the 18-34 gang.
Covert lead-in White Collar enjoyed its biggest night of the season, averaging 4.72 million viewers in its 9 p.m. time slot. The sophomore series also did well in the demos, averaging a season-high 2.02 million adults 25-54, 1.83 million 18-49s and 883,000 viewers 18-34.
For a Season 3 preview of S.O.A., click here.