USA Network drama hurt by popular NBA playoff game

Thursday’s season-two return of USA Network’s “Suits” saw significant ratings erosion but had to contend with a hugely popular NBA Finals game on ABC.

Universal Cable Prods.-produced drama drew 3.4 million viewers, down 17% from a year ago. In the 18-49 demo, the show garnered 1.4 million (-19%) and an identical 1.4 million in the 25-54 demo (off 20%).

Social media presence, however, was strong — up over 1,000% from a season ago on social media tracker Trendrr, according to CEO Mark Ghuneim — and the cabler expects a large viewer increase once the live-plus-3 and live-plus-7 numbers are included.

“Suits,” starring Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams, was created by Aaron Korsh, who exec produces with Doug Liman and David Bartis.

As for USA’s Jeffrey Donovan-starrer “Burn Notice,” which began its sixth season Thursday, ratings ticked up from its last fall cycle as expected, but fell significantly from summer 2011. Skein, from Fox Television Studios and creator Matt Nix, drew 3.8 million viewers and 1.5 million in both demos.

The game between Miami and Oklahoma City amassed 17 million viewers and hurt most networks in the broadcast and cable landscape for live viewing. “Burn Notice” and “Suits” were the top two scripted shows of the night among nets.

July is a busy month for USA, which is set to launch new seasons of “White Collar” and “Covert Affairs” on July 11. While net has much at stake in bringing back existing shows to healthy numbers, a huge priority is Greg Berlanti’s six-part miniseries “Political Animals,” scheduled to debut July 15.

Toplined by Sigourney Weaver as the U.S. secretary of state dealing with professional and personal issues, “Political Animals” is a move into more serious fare for USA and, if certain ratings thresholds are met, there is the likelihood the show could morph a series.

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