Univision's Goal: Number One Network in Five Years

12:40 PM PST 01/26/2011 by Elizabeth Guider

The Hispanic network and counterpart Telemundo tell NATPE audience that original content is key to growth.

The number one net in the U.S. in five years? CBS, ABC, NBC? Maybe none of these.

If what was visible at NATPE here in Miami is any indication, the answer may be different.

Think Univision as the numero uno net, and, if its original shows continue to shine, its rival Telemundo may not be too far behind.

"We expect to be the number one net in this country in five years," Univision Networks president Cesar Conde told participants Wednesday during back-to-back Q&As at NATPE with the toppers of the two Hispanic nets.

"What we have to do is Instill that hunger to be number one in our staff and then we have to have flawless execution," Conde added.

And both Conde and his counterpart at Telemundo, Don Browne, put the accent on original content as the strategy to getting there.

In short, the Latin connection was the most vibrant part of the biz evident at the NATPE trade show in Miami this week.  Not surprisngly, the back to back panels with the heads of the two Hispanic players were the most upbeat on the biz and the best-attended.

Both execs put the accent on the need for shows to be relevant and provocative for and reflective of their audiences.

"We have to push the envelope when it comes to programming," Conde said.

 As for the ad market that too has only one direction to go in their view and that is up.

 "In 2050 one of every three Americans will be Hispanic," Browne, who was interviewed second, pointed out.

 Latest census results will shift the conversation even more though and arguably help make the Hispanic buy a must for major brands.

"The ad buying community is going to say 'Wow.' It's a significant gamechanger in our country. Perhaps the biggest in the history of our media," Browne told attendees. (Telemundo, like other NBC channels, will become a unit of Comcast this Frday.) The former NBC exec has led the transformation of the Peacock-owned Telemundo from an acquirer to a producer of content in the last four years.

 "We now produce content and that has made all the difference.  Passionate, talented people are now knocking on our door," Browne said.

Here at NATPE Telemundo made a big push for its latest sudser La Reina del Sur, which is being co-produced with Antena 3 in Spain.

Both Conde and Browne were bullish about the prospects for not only their own networks but also for the clout of the Hispanic community with advertisers and politicians and the far-ranging impact of their programming.

 "The Latino vote is the swing vote in this country and we need to have our voice heard," Conde said.

Telenovelas are still the lifeblood of both players, with Univision mostly an acquirer of sudsers from Latin America, but now it too is catching the production bug.

"We watch what others are doing. The genre is a force of nature and it transcends geography," Conde noted. 

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