Barack and Michelle Obama are expanding their media empire beyond just Netflix and have inked a multiyear deal with Spotify to create and host podcasts.
The podcasts will be produced by the Obama family’s production company, Higher Ground, which already has as many as seven film and television projects in the works with Netflix, reports The Hollywood Reporter. The podcast division, Higher Ground Audio, will seek to “build connections” while sparking “thought-provoking conversations,” according to a statement from the former president.
“We’ve always believed in the value of entertaining, thought-provoking conversation,” Barack Obama said. “It helps us build connections with each other and open ourselves up to new ideas. We’re excited about Higher Ground Audio because podcasts offer an extraordinary opportunity to foster productive dialogue, make people smile and make people think, and, hopefully, bring us all a little closer together.”
Former First Lady Michelle Obama said that the audio division of Higher Ground will be focused on amplifying “voices that are too often ignored or silenced altogether.”
“Our hope is that through compelling, inspirational storytelling, Higher Ground Audio will not only produce engaging podcasts, but help people connect emotionally and open up their minds — and their hearts,” said Michelle Obama.
Dawn Ostroff, Spotify’s chief content officer, said that having Barack and Michelle Obama on the platform, which boasts 217 million monthly users, will be a great privilege, believing that they offer an “unrepresented and indispensable” narrative.
“President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are two of the world’s most important voices and it is a privilege to be working with them to identify and share stories that will inspire our global audience, which looks to Spotify for unique, breakthrough content,” Ostroff said in a statement. “Connecting people with original and thoughtful creators — especially those with the ability to highlight underrepresented and indispensable narratives — is at the core of our mission and we are thrilled that not only will the Obamas be producing content, but that they will be lending their voices to this effort.”
In a partnership with Netflix, Higher Ground will also be developing a variety of content, from scripted to non-scripted series along with documentary films. Variety reported earlier this year that the Obamas put together an impressive executive team of varying film pedigrees. Priya Swaminathan, a former director of development at Annapurna, and Tonia Davis, former head of development at Chernin Entertainment, were both appointed as co-heads of Higher Ground. Qadriyyah “Q” Shamsid-Deen will also serve as a creative executive for the company.
Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said that Higher Ground will express the Obamas’ “core values,” hailing their slate as a symbol of their commitment to “diverse creators and unique voices.”
“President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and the Higher Ground team are building a company focused on storytelling that exemplifies their core values,” Sarandos said. “The breadth of their initial slate across series, film, documentary, and family programming shows their commitment to diverse creators and unique voices that will resonate with our members around the world.”