GUY RAZ, host:
Take a guess at which TV network is the fastest growing in America, where at times it beats ABC, CBS, and NBC in the 18-49 demo: Fox? CNN? MSNBC? Try Univision, the Spanish-language network that began as a small TV station in San Antonio, Texas in 1961.
Univision is a growing powerhouse in the American media landscape. And the 2012 election season may become Univision's moment. The man who now runs it is just 37 years old. His name is Cesar Conde, and he joins me here in the studio. Cesar, welcome to Washington.
Mr. CESAR CONDE (President, Univision): Guy, thank you so much for the invitation to be here.
RAZ: For people who are not familiar with Univision, tell me about what you would find on it. I mean, you would find, of course, soap operas, telenovellas, which are extremely popular, and some of your programs are so popular they beat out the networks in that key demo. What would you see on Univision right now if you turned it on?
Mr. CONDE: Sure, we have programming genres that you would see on any network in English. So for example, the novella genre that you mentioned, you know, sometimes I'm a little careful to clarify that it's not necessarily a soap opera because novellas for the Hispanic community, and frankly for many parts of the world, is our primetime television.
Mr. CONDE: For an actor in the Spanish-language or Hispanic media space the apex of their career is being in a novella, in contrast to an English-language, where one would maybe think the apex would be to be in a Hollywood movie.
And we have on our air in primetime every night - and this helps explain some of the power and the size of audience that we have - we have our George Clooney, our Brad Pitt, our Angelina Jolie, our Julia Roberts every single night.
Mr. CONDE: You know, we obviously, of course, have other genres, news, sports, and the like. Our news I would describe as being a little bit different than what you may see in English-language media.
We certainly emphasize a little bit more international news. A lot of our audience is coming to us because they want to know what's going on in their country of origin. And so, that gives us a little bit of a different perspective, I think.
RAZ: Yeah. You have a public affairs program called "Al Punto," to the point, by the way the name of a public radio program.
(Soundbite of laughter)
RAZ: You've had some pretty big names on - Palin, Boehner, Michelle Obama, the president in a town hall meeting setting on Univision. I read that as recently as 2007, Univision had a difficult time convincing newsmakers in this country to go on, to come on.
Mr. CONDE: You know what? It was difficult at the beginning to get any of the principals from either party. And I don't think it was because anyone necessarily had an issue speaking directly to the Hispanic community. It's because this program is in Spanish, and sometimes if people don't speak Spanish, they're a little bit uncomfortable at first.
However, anyone that has come on has realized that, you know, this is an incredibly effective way to reach a community that before wasn't being spoken to directly. We are very proud, as a company, of where we've come in just the last three or four years in the political arena.
RAZ: As you know, most elected officials who are Hispanic here in Washington, the majority are Democrats. Are your viewers primarily Democratic-leaning, particularly because of the immigration debate, or do you believe that in 2012, the Univision vote, so to speak, will be up for grabs?
Mr. CONDE: I am a big believer, and I think the information and the data that we have seen is that the Hispanic vote is going to be up for grabs.
RAZ: Even though in places like California, the Hispanic vote is primarily Democratic?
Mr. CONDE: I think we are seeing a constituency that's becoming much more engaged. They understand that they have to engage from a civic perspective to have a voice.
But one thing that's important is that sometimes people make - have the misunderstanding that the Hispanic community only cares about one issue, for example, immigration.
When one looks historically at the issues that matter most to Hispanics, over the last 10, 15 years, it's been very consistent. Number one issue on Hispanics finds education. And then the other ones are very similar to the rest of the U.S. voter: jobs, economy, health care, financial empowerment and the like.
Immigration has historically not been in the top five. Certainly today it is one of those issues that is part of the mix of the conversation.
RAZ: Let me ask you about plans for the future. A 24-hour, seven-day-a-week Univision news channel is in the works. Tell me about that idea.
Mr. CONDE: One of the things that we have noticed is there's a tremendous amount of demand for more Spanish-language and Hispanic programming here in the United States.
One of the areas that's very consistent with our mission is news coverage. And we believe that there is a unique opportunity, one, because our community is becoming much more active from a civic engagement perspective, but two, coming up onto the 2012 presidential election cycle, everyone is going to be talking about the Hispanic vote and trying to understand it.
We also have a presidential election in Mexico. So we think those two dynamics create a very interesting window to be able to bring a 24-hour news cycle to Hispanic America.
RAZ: You're going to have a CNN-style channel. When do you expect that to launch?
Mr. CONDE: We are looking to do this in 2012.
RAZ: That's Cesar Conde. He's the president of Univision. He joined me here in our studios in Washington. Cesar, thanks so much for being with us.
Mr. CONDE: Guy, thank you again for the invite. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
It's not Fox, CNN, or MSNBC. Univision is growing faster than any network on television — and it's not all Spanish-language soap operas. The network is poised to play a major role in the 2012 elections.
One TV network is serving the fastest-growing consumer population in the country — at times edging out ABC, NBC and CBS in the coveted 18- to 49-year-old viewer demographic. And it isn't broadcast in English.
It's Spanish-language network Univision, which began as a small TV station in San Antonio in 1961. Now, with millions of viewers tuning in each week, it's growing faster than any other broadcast network on television.
"There's a tremendous amount of demand for more Spanish-language and Hispanic programming here in the United States," Univision Networks President Cesar Conde tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz.
"We feel it's important that we step up and provide that type of programming our community is asking for."
'Our George Clooney, Every Single Night'
What's the Spanish-language and Hispanic community asking for? A wide genre of programming akin to any English network: news, information and entertainment — with a growing cultural relevance for its audience.
Take Spanish-language soap operas, known as telenovelas. They're not soap operas in the American sense. They're broadcast during prime time, every night of the week.
And for an actor in the Spanish-language or Hispanic media space, Conde says, starring in a telenovela can be "the apex of their career" — what starring in a Hollywood blockbuster is for English-speaking actors.
"We have our George Clooney, our Brad Pitt, our Angelina Jolie — every single night," he says. "Must-see TV that occurs every single day in episodic continuation."
The network differs from English-language television in other ways, too. Its news coverage, for example, may strike a new viewer as more international than some English-language networks.
"A lot of our audience is coming to us because they want to know what's going on in their country of origin," Conde says. "That gives us a little bit of a different perspective, I think."
2012 And Beyond
Univision may lean international, but it doesn't stray far from American news and politics. These days it's not unusual to see an interview with House Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) or first lady Michelle Obama on the network. Even President Obama recently appeared in a town hall-style meeting on Univision, which struggled to book big-time newsmakers as recently as 2007.
"Sometimes if people don't speak Spanish, they're a little uncomfortable at first," Conde says. "However, anyone that has come on has realized this is an incredibly effective way to reach a community that before wasn't being spoken to directly."
Univision sees even more opportunities to reach its audience right around the corner — with an upcoming presidential election in Mexico and the 2012 elections in the U.S. The network plans to launch a 24-7 news channel in 2012.
"Our community is becoming much more active from a civic engagement perspective," Conde says. "Everyone's going to be talking about the Hispanic vote and trying to understand it."