Spy drama sets ratings records in adult demos

Going up against original-episode competition from broadcast nets for the first time, USA Network’s “Burn Notice” scored its best adults 18-49 ratings ever on Thursday night.

Returning with fresh second-season episodes, the spy drama tallied nearly 2.5 million viewers in the key demo, according to live same-day Nielsen data that doesn’t factor in DVR numbers. The number’s up 4% over last summer’s second-campaign premiere, which drew the series’ previous high.

Thursday’s episode narrowly missed the skein’s all-time mark in total viewers by a mere 5,000 even as it was running at 10 p.m. against original-episode broadcast competition from “Private Practice” on ABC, “The Eleventh Hour” on CBS and “ER” on NBC.

Starring Jeffrey Donovan as a disavowed government operative who plies his espionage skills to aid people in distress, “Burn Notice” has helped lead USA to ratings dominance during the summer months but had previously not ventured out of that season, which is light on original episode competition from the broadcast nets.

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