Angela’s A-Game

Sports are among the biggest moneymakers in broadcasting, but most of the emphasis to date has been on just a slice of that world—talking about the upcoming event, watching it and then dissecting what happened, afterward. What about life past the final whistle?


That’s where PlayersTV comes in. The new network that launched in 2020 celebrates athletes beyond their sporting excellence. With an all-star team of pro-sport backers who include Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Travis Kelce—and Kyrie Irving as Chief Creative Officer—the athlete lifestyle company is breaking new ground both in terms of programming and business.


“This content is about what athletes do outside of their fields of play,” says CEO Angela Bundrant. “They are rich people with full lives. What they do athletically is really only their job; it doesn’t talk about their spaces and passions in financing and cooking and building wine companies.”


For instance, the PlayersTV programming includes a show called Cooking Clean with basketball’s DeAndre Jordan, who talks about his plant-based lifestyle. Then there is Front Office, produced in partnership with UBS Wealth Management, which follows athletes and their financial teams taking pitches from entrepreneurs—sort of like a super-fit Shark Tank. “PlayersTV is peeling back the layer of the lives of athletes off their fields of play,” says Bundrant.


Sportsmen and women have made business deals before, of course, but this is the first time they have joined forces—55 of them—as a collective. “It’s super-special,” says Bundrant, who recounts a recent investment meeting with a large bank. The principal told her, “In all of my time, I have always wondered why athletes did not come together to own their own platform.”


Bundrant may be uniquely positioned to head PlayersTV—whose streaming service is called Athletes in Demand—because of her diverse broadcast background, from sports to the hip-hop network Revolt. She has worked for some of the biggest names in the industry, including Fox, Sony and Turner. Those experiences formed the person one former business associate describes as an “articulate, smart, intuitive and tenacious media executive.”


Building blocks
Syracuse University figures huge in Bundrant’s life; she believes she is where she is today in large part because of her time there. Though she had earned a place at Michigan State, Howard and Northwestern Universities, and her parents wanted her to attend a school that was less expensive and closer to their Detroit home, she was determined to attend Syracuse “no matter what.”


She told her parents that if they wouldn’t support her choice, she’d stay home for a year and earn money to pay her own way. It was a stand that says a lot about who she is, she feels—“very tenacious and decision-driven and very much about getting to the yes.”


One reason Bundrant was so intent on going to Syracuse was that “I wanted to broaden my circle. I wanted to broaden my horizon. It was important to me to meet people outside of my Detroit circle—who still, by the way, are terrific friends, but I just saw something broader for myself.”


She dual-enrolled, earning one bachelor’s from the Newhouse School of Communication (with a focus on public relations) and another from the Whitman School of Management. Having interned in PR and marketing, “I knew I was good at building narratives and telling stories and marketing strategy,” she tells. “I’m not a huge writer, so I knew I needed the piece from the business school that was really strategy and a less creative space, like an advertising-type degree.”


She started her career at Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta, doing research for the sports division. “Stats and analysis and games and figuring out what games we wanted to lobby the leagues for, to air on which nights.”


After three years, she was itching for more. “I knew I wasn’t an insights- and research-driven person. I really just wanted to learn research for a great basis and understanding of the business.” Two mentors made an introduction to people they knew at Fox Broadcasting, which took her to Los Angeles. She describes her role in bringing independent stations into the network as being part of the team that “Foxified the country.”


It wasn’t a long stay, about 18 months or so. “Interestingly, what drove me to leave was seeing the disparity in support of programs.” She names Martin, In Living Color, Roc and 21 Jump Street as examples. “I saw how different the support was from the network on shows that built the network and drove programming, yet they didn’t have equal support within the organization.”


Making connections
If there’s one key to getting ahead, Bundrant says, it’s networking. “Having a sponsor is so important, having experience that you are firm in and knowing your value is imperative.” She tells how a former boss put a word in for her when she was seeking to get hired at Sony, which “percolated my experience and my resume up.”


When she left Sony a dozen or so years later, she was eager to join the new Revolt network and once again reached out to people she knew. One of them was a former senior boss who worked for another company in the Revolt building and arranged a meeting for her with the new network’s chief financial officer. That led to her reaching out to the incoming CEO, with whom she’d had previous business dealings.


“I got on the phone with [him] and I was like, ‘I’m the person for this job. I’m going to send you my resume, hire me.’ And he did. So that’s how I got the role at Revolt.”
It was a similar thing with PlayersTV. Excited about the new brand, she made some inquiries but decided against making a move at that time. A few months later, she was asked to be part of PlayersTV’s advisory board, and later was invited to be considered for the CEO role, “and here I am.”


For all the importance of working connections, however, Bundrant also emphasizes the importance of timing. “It is only when we force a fit that things go wrong, that has been what I have learned.”


Bundrant’s time working for Lucie Salhany, CEO of UPN (United Paramount Network), whom she describes as “one of the female pioneers in broadcasting,” was hugely formative. “She ensured that us female junior executives were included, seen, part of decision-making. She ensured that our pay was on par with our peers.”


Bundrant considers herself “super fortunate” to have seen Salhany in action “and learned to advocate for myself as a female executive. I have never needed to be coached on how to take up space in a room or how to interject what I believed to be true in business: I saw that from an early leader in my career.”


Bundrant emphasizes to young people the importance of securing a strong salary base, because that’s where you build from: “They always ask, ‘What did you make in your last job?’ and it’s a public record now, right? So, it’s important that we start on as level of playing field as possible or else you can’t get the bump up. It’s always lower because it’s from a lower base.” It’s not just a matter of another $5,000 or $10,000, she says. “It’s another percent that can go into a 401(k), which over 30 years matters, right, so it’s so important.”


Helping others
More people have helped make a way for her than there is time to tell, she says (“I’ve had amazing mentors and sponsors and advocates throughout my career”). She believes that “everybody that crosses our path, whether the interaction is good, bad or otherwise, is there for a purpose.” Though Bundrant appreciatively mentions others who have played a significant part in her career, she notes that Salhany is the only woman on the list. That is “endemic of the time” in which she was building her career, she says.


“Now, the job is mine to ensure that other women get called.” Thankfully, she adds, she now has female peers who are general counsels, heads of marketing or leading production companies. “So, I am certain that this next generation of leaders who are now in entry-level management and middle management, they will for sure have women like me that can say we’re waymakers for them, because that is very much a purpose for me.”


Recognizing all the help she has received along the way, she is keen to stretch out a hand to those coming up behind her. “I won’t say I’ve been lucky, I’ve just honestly been blessed,” she acknowledges. With that comes a sense of responsibility to help others whenever possible.


“I try to do a ton of sessions with my beloved Newhouse school; I just did a Zoom with them a week or two ago. I try to be as available as possible for young people on LinkedIn. I try to do a lot with the University of Michigan and their advisory of students. I’m glad to; I believe it is my job.”


Bundrant also sits on the board of I Am Her, a nonprofit that aims to uplift young girls from underserved communities. “It has been incredible for me,” she says. “I have found that I get a lot of energy seeing the excitement and the passion and possibility in young people.”


Balancing priorities
Bundrant doesn’t buy the lie that women can’t have a successful career and a full life outside of it, but she isn’t unaware of the challenges. “We can be whatever we want to be,” she says, “but I also believe that a pie only equals 100%. You cannot have a pie that is 120.”


So that means you have to work out what comprises that 100 for yourself. “Each day, each week, each month, each season—the percentage of that pie that is dedicated to family, to work, to kids, to philanthropic, to travel… we determine what percentage each of those important pieces of our lives gets and how it equals our 100. So, if you have a marriage that is taking up 80%, you’ve only got 20% left. Not even Beyoncé has more than 100.”


That pie-slicing is not a one-and-done calculation. “It changes with the season,” says Bundrant. “If we’re being honest, there are days that I know I give more to my career than I have to give to my family. There are seasons of my life that I know I had to give more to my family than I was able to give to my career. There are times when I know I have more time to work out and be philanthropic and teach spin classes and do other things… it is based on the season that I am in, respecting where I am and honoring the balance to my 100.

Absolutely we can have it all. It’s how we manage the balance and the percentage to get to our 100 final.

ANGELA BUNDRANT


Asked what advice she would give to young people graduating and pursuing a career, she passes along something her father told her: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” And then you have to build a life that you can afford, she adds. “I think a lot of times we get off track when we want to earn more because we’re spending more. But if you do what you love and you build a life that you can afford, it will all be in alignment.”


Bundrant recalls speaking recently with a young woman who wanted to work in philanthropy, providing glasses for communities that don’t necessarily have those kinds of resources. “And she was worried about how she could build a great life,” Bundrant says. “And I said, ‘Well, what bills do you have? You’re fresh out of college… you don’t have a car, you don’t have a mortgage. Do what you love and then build the life you can afford.’

“That’s my only trick to happiness.”


From an interview with Louis Carr