Madhu Goel Southworth, ’01, is the senior vice president for legal and business affairs for AMC Network Entertainment LLC and Sundance TV. In that position, she is highest-ranking officer addressing the day-to-day legal needs of those networks, reporting to the general counsel of AMC Networks, Inc.
While she is busy with responsibilities that include protecting a broad intellectual property portfolio, handling worldwide licensing matters for more than 100 consumer products, executing deals that support AMC’s new on-demand service, and negotiating brand extensions and deals for nonscripted content, she is also a member of the business team that aims to create a flourishing future in a complexly evolving industry. “Virtually every force that affects our society also affects our businesses,” she said. “It’s not just what we do, in terms of things like technology, content, and branding; but also the ways we do things, in terms of leadership, diversity, and inclusion.”
She is fully conversant with emerging technologies that include virtual reality, appearing on a short list of legal thought leaders in those technologies. “Just as our smartphones have practically become part of our bodies, I expect virtual reality and augmented reality to become completely interwoven with our lives in the relatively near future,” she said.
She has earned many mentions as one of the most influential women in cable. Most recently, she was named as one of 12 industry “Wonder Women” for 2019, in recognition of her “commitment to enhancing the business, challenging the status quo, and being an example for young leadership around the world.” She has been recognized as a “luminary” by the National Association of Minorities in Cable and honored as corporate counsel of the year by the North American South Asian Bar Association.
Her commitment to diversity and inclusion is unwavering. “I think recognizing, acknowledging, and then building a conversation around diversity and inclusion is a big deal,” she said. She serves on the executive board of AMC’s diversity and inclusion committee and is a mentor to women and people of color through a legal internship program that she started and oversees. She cofounded Lattice, a professional group for senior women counsel in media and entertainment.
Among her many volunteer activities, she serves on the boards of organizations that include Reel Works, which prepares diverse high school students for careers in media and entertainment, and The Town Hall, an arts and performance venue in Times Square founded by women suffragists.
The Law School, she said, provided her with ways of thinking and problem-solving that have been instrumental in her accomplishments. “From what I have seen, there is no law school that prepares its graduates as well as UChicago does to succeed at whatever they choose to do,” she said, adding that when a recent graduate of the Law School applied for a position on her team, she was very pleased to be able to bring her on. “Her Chicago pedigree assured me that I was adding a very well-prepared lawyer to my team, one with the vigorous commitment to excellence that the Law School instills,” she said.
She has been based in New York City since she graduated, but she hadn’t expected things to turn out that way. She had applied to the Law School in part because she wanted to remain close to her family after graduating from the University of Illinois, and she had intended to return to Chicago after she completed her first job, as a federal district court clerk in New York. Less than three days after she had arrived in the city, she was emerging from a downtown subway station near the World Trade Center on her way to work when the first airplane hit a tower. “It was a terrible thing to witness, and it shook me deeply,” she recalled. “It took me a long time to get over it, but I was very impressed by New Yorkers’ spirit and resilience.” She later met her husband, a native New Yorker, and they now have two daughters. “I have roots in New York now, and you can’t really help but love what a vibrant and cosmopolitan place it is. But a big piece of my heart will always be in Chicago.”