Cesar Conde Talks Telemundo Strategy


Cesar Conde, chairman of NBCUniversal International Group and NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, took part in a NATPE keynote conversation with World Screen’s Anna Carugati, weighing in on storytelling for the U.S. Hispanic audience and revealing the strategies Telemundo has employed to drive ratings gains.

Carugati began the session by asking Conde about the gains at Telemundo. “It’s been an exciting year,” Conde said. “We’re going through a transitional time in our industry and it’s been wonderful to see so many of our colleagues trying to innovate and think out of the box. For us at Telemundo it has been a wonderful few years.”

The transformation of the U.S. Hispanic broadcaster began in 2016 he said, when in the summer it became the number one Spanish-language network in weekday prime. Last year saw Telemundo building on that momentum. “Our investments and our strategies are beginning to bear fruit. We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s good momentum. One of the untold media stories is that Telemundo this past season also finished as the number five broadcast network in the 18-to-34 demo in all languages. That’s an important development.”

Conde credited the Telemundo team for setting a vision to “redefine Hispanic media, redefine what it means in the marketplace and what it means to our viewers and to our community. From that premise we said, We’re going to invest in our business and double down on it.”

Four areas were selected for investment, Conde noted: content, infrastructure, digital and talent. On the content side, Conde said there was an opportunity to speak to a “void that was starting to form in the Hispanic market. We wanted to create content that spoke in a unique, culturally relevant way to the Latino audience in the U.S. We were the only company that could develop original content, high quality, for U.S. Hispanics by U.S. Hispanics here in the U.S. That’s what we’ve begun to do.”

The company has extended well beyond the traditional telenovela. “We created and launched the super series, we pioneered the bio-musical genre, and last night we announced our first series from our new Telemundo International Studios division, El Recluso [The Inmate], a premium, high-quality series of 13 episodes. We’re going to continue to innovate.”

On the notion that younger bilingual Hispanics don’t want to watch Spanish-language television, Conde said, “We all know we have an incredibly fast-growing and robust Hispanic community here in the U.S. It’s driving the demographic growth in the U.S. We skew young. Even with all the choices of network, language, platform, Spanish-language is still the most consumed and at the core of Hispanic media consumption, particularly in the younger demographics. Our super series El Señor de los Cielos, now in its fifth season, is going into season six. The fifth season was the number one network show at 10 p.m. in the U.S. regardless of language in the 18-to-34 demographic in its time period. That tells us that if you provide high-quality, culturally relevant content they cannot find anywhere else, our viewers will come watch.”

On how viewing habits have shifted, Conde said, “Viewers are in control. We are trying to make sure that we have our content available to them in any place they want to consume it at any moment in time on any platform. We put a lot of focus on where we distribute our content. We’re on all the major traditional MVPDs, we need to make sure we’re on all the digital MVPDs.”

Carugati then asked Conde about how Telemundo works with advertisers. “It starts with evangelizing and educating about the potential of the Hispanic community. If you were to take the Hispanic community as its own standalone country, the GDP is the seventh-largest in the world. That’s ahead of fast-growing emerging markets like India and Brazil. When you speak to corporate America and you give them those facts, that they have this incredible growth opportunity right in their backyard, with all the benefits of a fast-growing emerging market and all the security and low risk of the United States, it’s an incredible value proposition for them. We have over $1.7 trillion in consumer spending power.”

Conde added that the profile of the Telemundo viewer is very attractive to advertisers. “We skew much younger than our competitors in English and Spanish. We have a consumer base that is very digitally savvy and engaged, not only with our content but with all of our platforms. They are looking for product and are much more loyal when they connect with a brand.”

Then, the key is to approach the client with “creative ideas that help them push their brands. Our content production team and our sales team are trying to create those unique opportunities [outside the 30-second spot].”

Conde referenced MasterChef Latino, which “lends itself to creative integration with advertisers.”

This year, Telemundo has the Spanish-language rights to the World Cup. “For Hispanics, soccer is a religion and the World Cup is our cathedral,” said Conde. The deal for the rights was reached before Conde joined NBCUniversal. The decision to bid, made by Comcast Corporation Chairman CEO Brian Roberts and NBCU CEO Steve Burke, was driven by their belief that sports is a genre that can “transcend all the different changes in our industry. NBCUniversal had made a big bet on the Olympics and we made this bet on the World Cup. To have the Spanish-language rights has sent an incredibly important message to our employees and to the industry that we, NBCUniversal, believe in the potential, the growth, of the Hispanic media business.”

The company is also soon moving into the new Telemundo Enterprises headquarters in Miami. “It will be the most forward-leaning facility in the NBCUniversal portfolio. Bringing everyone under one roof provides us the opportunity to innovate and collaborate at a faster pace. It sends a message to our distributors and our advertisers: we’re putting our money where our mouth is. We invested $250 million in building this facility.”

Telemundo Enterprises has also been investing in local stations, recently acquiring 13 stations from ZGS Communications. Once that transaction closes, Telemundo will have close to 30 owned-and-operated stations. “We believe that for our local communities to connect with us, they have to have a robust and strong local business.”

The conversation then moved on to the importance of news and covering social issues. “One of the most sacred responsibilities we have in the broadcast television business is the information we provide to our community. The issues that are being debated right now in D.C. and throughout the state capital are the issues that matter most to Latinos day in and day out: education, jobs, health care reform and immigration reform. We have a unique responsibility to make sure we’re providing as much information, as much access to resources, in the most objective way, so that our community can be well informed and make good decisions for themselves and their families.”

Carugati then moved the conversation to Conde’s other hat, as chairman of the NBCUniversal International Group, a business that encompasses content distribution, a portfolio of channels and content production. “We’ve seen such a demand for premium content. We’re seeing that demand across the board. We have great growth in Latin America and Asia. It speaks to the globalization of our business and hopefully we’ll be able to build on that in the years to come.”

NBCU’s content distribution activities include the sale of Telemundo programming. “It’s been incredibly well-received. We are the second-largest producer of Spanish-language content in the world. When you look at the type of content we’re making, we’re at the forefront of new trends. We’re also performing extraordinarily well on the new platforms on the digital front. That positions us well and it gives us at NBCUniversal a great blend of product that we can offer to our partners.”

Looking ahead, fragmentation and the pace of change present challenges for everyone in the media business, Conde said. “For us in the Spanish-language space, the biggest challenge continues to be the evangelization and the education of the potential of the Spanish marketplace.”