One of USA Network‘s signature series, dramaWhite Collar, is poised to wrap its run with a six-episode sixth and final season. There is no official word yet, but I hear the network and series producer Fox TV Studios are finalizing the deal. The size of the order looks like a compromise between a movie/mini-series conclusion USA had been considering and a full-length season, sought by producer FfvS. Season 5 ended with a cliffhanger involving the abduction of Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer). All of USA’s other established series —Monk, Burn Notice (also produced by FtvS), Psych and In Plain Sight — also had received a proper send-off. Moved to fall for the first time since its first season,White Collar got dinged up against in-season competition but rebounded in January when the conclusion of Season 5 averaged 2.8 million viewers in Live+Same Day, up 22% from fall, and 955,000 adults 18-49, up 32%.
With ratings still solid, the renewal negotiations zeroed in on the show’s economics. At this point in the run of a series, a network is responsible for the full production cost. With a well-known cast and extensive location shoots in New York, White Collar is an expensive show. What’s more, it is not owned by USA. USA parent NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment has made owning content a priority with the appointments of Jeff Wachtel and Dawn Olmstead to spearhead in-house production efforts. The network has a lot of projects in the pipeline and has been going through a portfolio changeover, replacing its older shows with new ones. From a business perspective, continuing White Collar at the current price tag might not have made a lot of sense for USA. But from a legacy standpoint, the show — which boasts one of the network’s most recognizable stars in Bomer and is one of is USA’s best critically received series — deserved a proper conclusion. (FtvS also had been willing to shoulder the cost of a final season and was open to a lower license fee.)