Induction into the B&C Hall of Fame caps a year filled with important milestones for Cesar Conde, chairman of NBCUniversal International Group and NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises.
Conde marks five years in the Comcast NBCUniversal family this month, having been recruited away from Univision Communications after a decade there. This past April, NBCU opened the gleaming $250 million Telemundo Center in Miami, Fla., with production facilities supporting the original content creation at the heart of the Spanish-language programmer’s strategy.
For Telemundo and NBCU, the investment, epitomized by the new center, has been paying off with ratings and revenue gains.
Telemundo in the recently ended broadcast season finished No. 1 among Spanish-language broadcast networks in primetime during the week among adults 18-49 and 18-34, per Nielsen. That’s a second-straight annual win in those categories.
Telemundo also broadcast its first-ever FIFA World Cup, from Russia, this year, with Comcast having secured Spanish-language U.S. rights in 2018, 2022 and 2026 (when the tournament is going to be played in North America).
“This was an incredible World Cup for us,” Conde said. “Complete success from a ratings perspective from what our expectations were, and from a revenue perspective from what our expectations were.”
Tapping the Right Leader
Comcast had called on Conde in 2013 because it believed in the potential of Telemundo under the right leadership. Comcast acquired the broadcast network, which includes 28 owned TV stations and 51 affiliates, along with NBC and other assets, in 2011.
“When we bought Telemundo, going on eight years ago, it really wasn’t making any money,” NBCU CEO Steve Burke said. “And at the time Univision was making over $1 billion a year in terms of EBITDA.” Former Univision chief Joe Uva recommended Conde to Burke, and Burke followed the advice to call. “I had breakfast with him and instantly realized that Joe was right,” said Burke, who added that hiring Conde was “one of the better decisions we’ve made in the last five years.”
Burke noted the ratings turnaround at Telemundo — from 25% share in primetime to more than 50% today — and the financial backing from Comcast on FIFA World Cup Spanish-language rights, the Telemundo Center and on original series in general.
“We’ve made a big investment,” Burke said. “And you don’t invest in a business unless you think there’s opportunity in the business and you have great leadership. Cesar has made it easy for us to continue to invest in Telemundo because he’s such a capable leader.”
In addition to the 10 years he spent at Univision, where it became the first Spanish-language network to hit No. 1 in the nation in ratings regardless of language (in 2013), Conde came to Telemundo with impeccable credentials. A Harvard and Wharton Business School graduate, he worked in 2002-03 in the White House for Secretary of State Colin Powell. Before that, he earned early internet experience at StarMedia Network and worked in the mergers and acquisitions group at Salomon Smith Barney.
He’s also a savvy, bilingual executive who, in the words of longtime friend and CAA agent Christy Haubegger, looks the same now as he did 20 years ago.
“He’s so polished and he’s so very much one of the few Latino media executives that people in both worlds know,” Haubegger said. “Certainly in the NBC world, but also in the Telemundo world, which means that he is one of the people who has a rare vantage point on both sides of the media.”
The U.S.-born son of immigrant parents, his mother from Cuba and his father from Peru, Conde and his brothers grew up in Miami. “Miami’s home, and it was a great place to grow up,” said Conde, who splits much of his work time between there and New York. His parents are still in Miami and Conde is married to Univision anchor Pamela Silva Conde, co-host of Primer Impacto, the newsmagazine show.
“She runs pretty hard as well,” Conde said. “When we have downtime, we’re big movie buffs. So we spend a lot of time watching movies and consuming series.”
Tuned Into His Audience
As for TV watching, other than Primer Impacto, Conde says his tastes run to Telemundo sports and new series. “The type of content that we’re producing, scripted-wise, has just never been done here for the Hispanic market,” he said.
His favorite, though, is the new, hit sports competition series Exatlón, which has delivered double-digit ratings gains. “It’s kind of like American Ninja Warrior meets Survivor,” he said. “And it is just addictive.”
Conde is mindful of Telemundo’s youthful audience and proud of the company’s high rankings for social engagement with fans, as measured by Shareablee. He believes it’s important to “be forward-leaning when it comes to cutting innovative partnerships in the digital arena” with the likes of BuzzFeed and Snap.
Five years into the run for Conde so far at Comcast NBCUniversal, following 10 years at Univision — where does he see himself five or 10 years from today? Recent accolades and milestones aside, Conde sees plenty of challenges worth meeting.
“I’m ecstatic doing what I do today here at NBCU,” he said. “I fundamentally believe that we are building the best media company of the future here at Comcast NBCU. We have all of the pieces that we need to be successful. And I think the challenge for all of us collectively is going to be how do we pivot, how do we innovate with those assets, in the coming three, five, seven, 10 years, to adjust to the very fast-changing consumption habits that we’re seeing out there.”
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