USA’s White Collar Unbuttons Solid Start

USA Network appears to have another hit on its hands in White Collar, as the new original series delivered 5.37 million viewers Friday night at 10 p.m.

Boosted by USA’s $10 million media blitz––the campaign includes spots on national cable as well as in-house promos and outdoor––White Collar enjoyed a strong opening night, on par with the 5.59 million viewers its most recent new series, Royal Pains, drew with its June 4 opener.

If Royal Pains is any indication, USA’s newest home-grown drama should see a significant uptick in viewers upon application of live-plus-seven-day ratings. The Pains premiere gained 23 percent with a week’s worth of time-shifted viewing factored in, drawing 6.86 million viewers, per Nielsen L7 data.

White Collar also put together some healthy demo numbers, averaging 2.18 million adults 25-54 and 1.79 million viewers 18-49, marking USA’s best performance in the time slot in 20 months. By comparison, Pains’ premiere drew 2.5 million 25-54s and 2.3 million 18-49s in its Thursday 10 p.m. slot.

While Monk and Psych have established USA’s Friday night bona fides, there was some question as to how a premiere would fare in the midst of broadcast’s fall schedule. In August, NBC Universal Cable Entertainment president Bonnie Hammer said late-October was the ideal window for a White Collar launch, as it is “late enough that people have already sampled the broadcast menu and are interested in seeing something fresh.”

The premiere ran with a reduced commercial load, thanks to a presenting sponsorship commitment from Ford. The automaker took ownership of the first break, a special 60-second pod in which it showcased the 2010 Taurus. Ford also received a season-long integration.