Cultivating career and community: Heather Anderson, Vice President of Original Content and Business Affairs at ESPN

Listening to Heather Anderson take you on a journey through her career is inspiring, and we aren’t the only ones to feel that way. Heather, Vice President of Original Content and Business Affairs at ESPN, has recently been awarded three times in recognition of her wonderful career and contributions to her community.

Her legal career journey began in the music industry and has since taken her through various areas of the entertainment business, but hers wasn’t always a world filled with entertainment industry names and awards. When she was young and her family faced financial instability, she remembers asking her mom what kind of job would give her a good salary. “Well, you could be attorney,” her mom replied.

While the journey began with a desire for financial constancy and safety, it evolved over the years.  “I didn’t know any attorneys [growing up]. All I knew about it was what I saw on television. There was a show when I was in high school called LA Law, and I thought, ‘I want to do that! I want to move to Los Angeles. I want to be an entertainment attorney…That’s the dream.’”


And accomplish that dream she did. As an undergrad, she majored in political science and ethnic studies at UC Berkeley before continuing her education in an entertainment law-focused program at UCLA Law. As the first person in her family to obtain a professional degree and work in the corporate world, she worked hard to achieve her goals, and along the way her passion for law evolved into one for providing help and justice for others. “What I love about it is the ability to advocate for people. So, while that wasn’t the initial incentive to get into law, that’s my favorite piece of it now: being a voice for people who don’t have a voice in rooms where they may be intimidated.”

After working successfully as a music industry lawyer, Heather received a call from a friend who said that The Walt Disney Company was looking for a video game lawyer. “She asked if I could be interested in applying, and I thought, ‘I don’t know anything about video games except that my sons play them! But that sounds interesting and will be a new growth opportunity for me. I can take what I already know, the knowledge and transferable skills I already have, and apply them in a space where I’ll get to stretch and grow and learn something new.’”

That growth approach has served Heather well in her career with Disney ever since, embracing change and new opportunities. She moved from supporting video games to websites and social media, even eventually being a lawyer for The Muppets as a long-form television production lawyer! Along the way, she also continued to grow her network and nurture existing relationships, including with Jimmy Pitaro, now the Chairman of ESPN, and Mark Walker, now Executive Vice President for ESPN Bet, Business Development and Sports Innovation, both who were leaders  - and therefore her clients - at Disney Consumer Products and Interactive.

“Now both of those leaders are at ESPN!  It just shows how you get exposure to people in different places, and you don’t know where everyone’s journey is going to take them…and this is one of the reasons why working at this company is so incredible.”

In 2020 she was promoted to vice president and participated in the Black Talent Network, a program where those in the network, including Heather, are assigned a mentor and given exposure to senior vice presidents and other executives. She shared with her mentor that after practicing law for 25 years and having the opportunity to be exposed to the business side of things, she was interested in moving into that space and wanted to explore the idea of an opportunity with ESPN – but she was willing to wait for the right position.

While she was waiting, she was encouraged to connect with Burke Magnus, President of Content for ESPN. After meeting via a virtual networking event, she requested a one-on-one meeting which turned into two meetings, and then three, until they were meeting once a month for a whole year - and the relationship building paid off. “That was the longest interview ever! He was aware that I was looking to make this transition to the business…and at some point in 2021, he came to me and said, ‘I have a role that I would be really interested in you considering.’ It had been a year in the making!”


Now, as Vice President of Original Content and Business Affairs at ESPN, Heather and her team negotiate deals for ESPN’s original content including 30 for 30, ESPN+ series and ESPN Films. “All of the documentary content that surrounds our live games and studio shows, I now support the creative teams that makes those happen. Our creative teams come up with ideas or decide to greenlight content, then they inform our team, and we start those negotiations with the agents or the producers. Business affairs is really the glue in between the creatives and the legal team.”

Throughout her career, Heather hasn’t only been instrumental in her legal or business work. She is also passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion and has been a part of milestone moments in creating communities within the company. We’ve already mentioned her involvement in the Black Talent Network, but she is also a co-founder of Disney Lawyers of Color and Wakanda@Disney, a business and employee resource group (BERG) created to champion business and professional opportunities and a communal space for Black talent at Disney.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion is an important passion of mine – I probably spend the majority of my free time outside of my assigned role working in that space. I’ve been involved in other BERGs, and the professional development and support of employees is near and dear to my heart.”

Outside of the company, she has also been on the Television Academy’s diversity council, the State Bar of California’s council for access and fairness, and currently sits on the board of the UCLA Law Ziffren Institute for media, entertainment, technology and sports law and the school’s LEAD women’s board.

Is it any surprise then that Heather would be chosen not once but three times for all of her achievements and dedication to supporting others? She has received the Lawyer of the Year award from the California Association for Black Lawyers, the Ms. JD Limitless Leader Award, and most recently, the 2024 Diversity Award from the Association of Corporate Counsel, Southern California.


“It was so humbling, and I’m so, so honored, and they all came from different organizations. Different people nominated me, so it brought me to tears to know that all that dedication to the cause is shining through.

The California Association for Black Lawyers is comprised of legal superstars - people in our profession that are doing incredible work. And the JD Limitless award is about pouring back into the community and empowering women, so it was an honor to be recognized…and to know my time is being used wisely. I am tired…! But then young people attend these events and come up to me afterwards and say ‘thank you’ and ‘because of your work I got to do this, or I got exposure to that’, and then it’s worth being a little tired!”

While she may need a few more hours of sleep than she currently gets, Heather finds support in her busy life from her friends and family – especially her two teenage sons. When she was recognized as Lawyer of the Year, her whole family and even her high school friends came to support her, flying in from across the country to make sure she felt celebrated. For the JD Limitless Award, she was surrounded by beloved colleagues, including her leader, Brian Lockhart, SVP, Original Content and ESPN Films, who flew in from New York. “Everyone just came with so much love and enthusiasm. I received beautiful gifts and the sweetest notes. From the bottom of my heart, I’m so grateful…and I feel so supported.”

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Looking back at her life and career, Heather sees that things happen at the right time with the right people.

“I feel like things happen in a season. This is the season where I have the influence to provide support and opportunities and the time to do it. And it’s my way of paying it forward and giving back to the community.”