MIAMI — In a cavernous television studio in an office park far from downtown, Cesar Conde fumbled at the teleprompter. The 37-year-old wunderkind and brains behind Univision, the nation's preeminent Spanish-language television network, is not normally an on-air personality. In a dark suit, white shirt, and red tie, he dresses more like a politician than a star. But on a springtime afternoon, before an audience of producers, cameramen, and policy wonks, Conde was introducing a three-part public-service program on the future of education. His short, impassioned speech in Spanish spoke of the consequential role that Latinos could play in the United States if they armed themselves with diplomas.
After the taping, Conde air-kissed a producer, nodded good-bye to the crew, and quickly exited the studio into the hallway. Before he rushed off to his next meeting, though, he couldn't help but express his earnestness about the role he wants Univision to play in the new, emerging economy. "It's our responsibility to help connect viewers with resources," he said. "We believe in our core responsibility of empowering Hispanics."
Ordinarily, Univision seems too slick a media company to concern itself with "empowerment." This April, the network surpassed both NBC and CBS in weekly primetime ratings with adults ages 18 to 34. Its steamy telenovelas regularly occupy the top 10 rankings of the most popular primetime Spanish-language programs, according to the Nielsen ratings. And, in the past two years, Univision's digital team has created 70 websites for local radio and TV affiliates while also experimenting with new digital forms of entertainment, such as soap operas made expressly to be viewed on mobile phones.