A decade ago, when NBCUniversal launched Coz TV in just 43 markets, diginets were still a novel concept, so no one was quite sure how to gauge its success. As with many diginets at that time, Cozi was powered by direct-response advertising.
“It was new ground for our owned stations division,” says Meredith McGinn, EVP of NBCU local media, multicast networks and original programming. “On the ad sales front, there was some disbelief that the direct response marketplace could be as fruitful as it has been. Not only did we gain in distribution, we also made huge milestones in revenue.”
Over the past five years, McGinn says Cozi has tripled its general market ad revenue. “The brand response ad category has really been revolutionized. The ads are quite different and more engaging than they’ve ever been.”
Today, Cozi is available in 145 markets reaching 109 million TV households. It’s consistently ranked among the top-five Nielsen-rated diginets. Since launch, Cozi’s ratings have risen 71% among adults 18-49; recent additions to its classic TV lineup — including “Monk,” “Bones” and “Las Vegas” — are already drawing younger viewers.
Programming, distribution, and promotion are the keys to Cozi’s continued growth.
On the programming side, half-hour multi-camera comedies such as “The Nanny,” “Frasier” and “Roseanne” perform well, as do hour-long shows including “Little House on the Prairie,” “Columbo” and “Emergency!” Other types of classic TV series — gritty police dramas, science fiction and heavily serialized shows — don’t really fit the Cozi mix.
Quality, not quantity, is a vital part of Cozi’s programming plan.
“It’s a combination of opportunity in the marketplace and long-range budget planning,” McGinn says, noting the acquisition of “Little House on the Prairie” was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. “We knew it hadn’t been in syndication for a long time. It definitely had not been in the free over-the-air broadcast space in many, many years. We had not planned it in our budget, but we made the extra pitch to make sure we could get it, and it’s been a big winner for us ever since.”
Distribution is constantly evolving alongside technology and audiences’ viewing habits.
“Recently, we extended our distribution to Dish and Direct, so that’s part of the mix. We also have some vMVPD distribution with HuluTV, fuboTV and YouTube TV. We know that’s important — it adds millions of viewers to our distribution footprint,” McGinn says. Old-fashioned over-the-air viewing “has grown 72% since our launch. Unfortunately for sole cable networks or cable brands, cable and satellite viewership has declined during the same time, so we’re definitely riding the upswing of OTA.”
Audiences’ pandemic-sparked desire for nostalgic TV also spiked Cozi’s ratings. Smart programming decisions and shrewd marketing and promotion efforts have kept it well-positioned to celebrate its 10th anniversary while looking ahead to its next decade.
“Our unique promotion really has been a key factor in growth and success in the last 10 years,” says Diane Petzke, VP of programming and promotion, Cozi TV.
Instead of focusing on nostalgia, Petzke’s team looks for ways to celebrate Cozi’s shows in contemporary ways. Take “The Munsters,” for instance. How do you promote an iconic 1964 series in a fresh way?
Cozi’s answer: Create a new dance, team with Broadway dancers to take over Times Square with a pop-up performance of “The Munster Stomp” and use Auto-Tune to turn a single episode into a mini-musical.
“We told the entire episode story as five songs using dialogue from the show as lyrics, and we auto-pitched the actors voices to Auto-Tune the episode,” Petzke says. “It was featured on the ‘Today’ show and we also brought the dancers into the studio to do the Munster Stomp.”
McGinn was surprised to see “The Munsters” draw younger viewers: “We would never have thought that a black-and-white comedy from 1964 would be one of our younger-skewing shows, but who doesn’t love a quirky family story?”
They “smell-o-vised” a classic episode of “The Office,” in which Michael (Steve Carell) and his girlfriend Jan (Melora Hardin) host a dinner party. Scratch-and-sniff cards associated with the episode were distributed, and Hardin signed on to shoot interstitial spots. “She would direct you to scratch of the number one card, which smelled like ossobuco, then another card for the scene where Jan is showing off her scented candles,” Petzke says.
Cozi’s promotion team literally went the extra mile last summer to promote “3rd Rock From the Sun.”
First, they sought out a ’62 Rambler such as the one featured on the show, then they partnered with the garage featured on MotorTrend TV’s “Restoration Garage” to restore the Rambler. (Cozi will get extra mileage from the experience when the restoration process is featured on an upcoming episode of that series, too). Once it was road ready, Cozi took the car to Comic-Con San Diego with “3rd Rock” star French Stewart and used it for photo ops and as a sweepstakes prize.
“We ended up having over 43,000 people enter,” Petzke says.
Cozi’s team is nimble enough to quickly switch gears when needed, too. After Angela Lansbury died in October, Cozi honored her by airing “Murder, She Wrote” all week.
Social media is another marketing tool Cozi wields well, notably Facebook and YouTube.
“We have over 500,000 followers on Facebook and our annual reach has gone from 6.4 million in 2018 to an average of over 20 million that we’ve maintained since 2020,” says Petzke. “We started creating original YouTube content and compilations in 2018 and went from zero subscribers to over 50,000 today. Cozi on YouTube has gotten almost 50 million views, and we’ve had a total of 4.3 million hours of watch time since we’ve gotten on the YouTube train.”
One piece of YouTube content, “12 Office Pranks that Totally Flummoxed Dwight Schrute,” has racked up nearly 15 million views.
“The other thing on the promotional front — in addition to having powerhouse NBC-owned stations promoting Cozi TV, which we’ve leveraged extensively over the years — are out-of-home networks,” McGinn says. Cozi promos have appeared on Reach TV, American’s largest in-airport TV network, taxicab screens in major markets, and Gloss TV, which is seen in nail salons across the country.
Celebrating Cozi’s 10th anniversary merited a special marketing push.
The fun started on the diginet’s official anniversary, Jan.1, with the first “10 for 10” marathon based on poll results of viewers’ favorite episodes of “Columbo.” Subsequent 10 for 10 marathons for “Roseanne,” “Frasier,” “Emergency!” and “The Munsters” ran throughout the month.
Cozi also created spots with series partners including Stewart and “The Nanny” herself, Fran Drescher, wishing Cozi a happy anniversary.
They’re capping things off by having 10-year-old students from the Play Group Theater in White Plains, N.Y., recreate scenes from some of Cozi’s most popular shows — performed as if they were school plays — for a series of promotional vignettes debuting in February.
“We’re shooting them in an actual theater, and the child actors will be featured in scenes from ‘Monk’ and ‘Roseanne’ to ‘Frasier’ and ‘The Nanny.’ We’ll be sharing those online and teasing them on-air,” Petzke says. See two of them below:
Whether celebrating a milestone or planning Mother’s Day promos with “Little House on the Prairie” star Karen Grassle, the COZI team doesn’t hold back.
“We see ourselves as the Little Engine that Could,” McGinn says. “We have to find bold, creative ways to get attention in an incredibly crowded media entertainment space. We’ve really enjoyed — and are proud of — all the ways we’ve been able to get attention for COZI TV shows.”