USA Captures Big Audiences For `Law & Order: CI' Premiere

The return of veteran Law & Order: Criminal Intent stars Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe helped the USA Network drama series draw more than 5 million viewers to Sunday's 10th and final season premiere.

The May 1 Law & Order; CI episode averaged 5.1 million viewers, its second-biggest audience since the show's original episodes debuted on USA in 2009 -- the series aired on NBC for its first six seasons.

The season 10 debut posted double-digit gains over the season 9 debut across several demos including adults 25-54 (21%); adults 18-49 (35%); adults 18-34 (31%) and total viewers (43%).

Law & Order: CI original cast members D'Onofrio and Erbe as Dets. Robert Goren and Alex Eames departed the series during the season nine premiere episode, but returned to do an eight-episode "final season." Producer D'Onofrio and Dick Wolf have openly campaigned to keep the show going further, with a similar schedule.

Wolf told bloggers on a call last month: "Obviously, I'm very self interested but, you know, this is a naked plea. I'd love to keep doing what we did this season, I think, that this -- eight episodes a year would be fabulous for everybody but, you know, I don't run the network," a transcript read.

D'Onofrio had been in 131 episodes of the show, at a rate of 22 episodes a season, when he stepped away and Jeff Goldblum's part on the show grew.

Also Sunday night, the season four premiere of drama In Plain Sight averaged 3.8 million viewers, matching last March's season three premiere.

The Mary McCormack-starrer also posted better numbers among adults 25-54 (1.4 million) and adults 18-34 (500,000) in its season four debut than all but one season three telecast, network officials said.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.