Networks commits to top cable series for seasons five and six

USA Network has given a go-ahead for seasons five and six of “Burn Notice” — continuing a trend of cablers showing confidence by reupping shows before having significant ratings data to consider.

Season four is still two months away from launching. But USA says the Fox TV Studios series — the No. 1 show in cable — will continue to be a ratings juggernaut and wants it to remain in the lineup for years to come. USA has also bought up the off-net rights to the six seasons of the show, which will begin airing as a strip on the cabler in October 2011.

“Once ‘Saturday Night Live’ makes fun of you,’ how can you not commit to extra seasons?” Jeff Wachtel, USA’s president of original programming, told Daily Variety.

Wachtel was referring to a skit on the venerable NBC latenight franchise in which gameshow contestants were quizzed about “Burn Notice.”

Network execs say seasons five and six will run a minimum of 15 and 18 episodes, respectively. Season four is shooting in Miami and season five will begin production in about a year.

Wachtel said an integral decision that helped the skein’s success came in the development process when USA/Syfy topper Bonnie Hammer asked that its location be moved from Newark, N.J., to Miami to give the show a more blue-sky quality. “That was a crucial moment in the life of the show,” Wachtel said.

Jeffrey Donovan starrer has been a ratings powerhouse since its inception in June 2007. Including same-week DVR play, “Burn Notice” closed out season averaging 7.1 million viewers and 3.3 million in the 18-49 demo. The final episode was a whopper with 6.1 million tuning in.

USA just finished the first quarter as the No. 1 network in ad-supported cable and recently announced a handful of pilot scripts that it believes will keep its momentum going. Newest series set to preem is “Covert Affairs,” which will start most likely in July.

The month promises to be a busy one for USA as “White Collar,” “Covert Affairs,” “Psych,” “Burn Notice” and “Royal Pains” may all be on the air.

Programming service MyNetwork TV just announced it will has picked up repeats of “Burn Notice” to run Wednesdays beginning in the fall.

Matt Nix, Mikkel Bondesen and Alfredo Barrios Jr. are exec producers.

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