Cesar Conde has quite a bit to do as the newly appointed president of Univision Networks. And yet at the same time, Conde has taken on one of life's great logistical challenges: He is getting married early next year. He will have to fit his myriad wedding plans—while learning a few dance steps—around a demanding day job that includes improving original programming at Univision, overseeing TeleFutura and Galavision, and expanding the definition of this dominant multi-cultural, multi-media company.
Before gaining the president title—previously held by Ray Rodriguez, who is retiring at the end of the year—the 35-year-old Conde was chief strategy officer and worked previously as special assistant to Univision Communications CEO Joe Uva. Prior to that, he worked across the board in corporate development, sales and interactive services, and as head of cable channel Galavision. And he has great confidence in the present and future of the Hispanic arena.
“If you look at the growth of Spanish-language media and the arc of Univision and the execution of what we've been able to do, it is feasible for Univision to be the number-one broadcast network regardless of language,” he says.
Granted, Univision's ability to attract viewers in the 18-34 demo is enviable—but a No. 1 network? In fact, Univision sees little of the live-viewing erosion common to other broadcast networks. Whether hype or hope, Conde is as committed to company growth as he expects to be at the altar next year.
“He is an extremely remarkable individual and leader, and has breadth and depth that belie his age,” Uva says. When asked whether Conde eats lunch at his desk, Uva responds, “I've seen him eat dinner at his desk.”
Conde, a Harvard graduate with a business degree from Wharton, brings a world of business experience to his new post. He worked as an investment banker at Salomon Smith Barney in the mid-1990s, but confessed to not seeing a future in it for himself. In time, his more civic-minded leanings induced him to head to the White House for a year as a special assistant to Colin Powell before joining Univision. “It was clear that he had great potential,” Powell said in a widely quoted e-mail to The Associated Press. “[Cesar's] sense of purpose and maturity allow him to lead by bringing out the best in those around him despite his young age.”
His fresh approach to business will help him fulfill his current mandate of evolving company programming. “We've had the wonderful benefit of pulling from fantastic partners in Mexico and Venezuela,” he says while underscoring the firm's own success with the reality genre, news and talk, and sports: “We need to make sure we resonate with our audience and speak about actual issues in their own backyards.”
Conde's mission is broader than securing TV ratings, however. Digital has tremendous importance for the firm, and Conde has had a hand in developing that asset. “We see a huge opportunity in the mobile space,” he says.
But his chief desire is to build Univision as a true cultural force for Hispanics throughout the U.S. “We are the lifeline and the defenders of Hispanic issues,” says Conde, who was born in Miami, the son of a Cuban mother who earned a Ph.D., and a doctor father from Peru. At Univision, he says, “Our mission is to inform, entertain and empower the Hispanic community.”
Toward that end, the network hosted its first presidential debate last year, something Conde hopes to build on in future election cycles. Beyond politics, Univision's mission is also civic. “The biggest issue for our community is education,” he explains. “Univision is more than a media company. It is a social, cultural and political force, and that's what differentiates us from other media companies.”
The company president also hopes to close the media circle by convincing advertisers to maintain their budgets in Spanish-language TV. TNS Media Intelligence reported a 12% drop in the first half of this year, proving Univision is not immune to the challenging economy.
But Conde remains optimistic and dedicated. “The biggest challenge is translating the success story of Spanish-language media where folks not in it [can] understand its impact,” he says. “Investing in Hispanic media is investing in growth. To invest anywhere else is an investment in decline or maintaining the status quo.”