Black America’s first couple is on the hunt for a new podcasting deal.
Bloomberg reports that Barack and Michelle Obama’s contract with streaming audio giant Spotify is set to expire this year and the two sides can’t come to terms on a new deal.
The Obamas pursued a number of media deals after their two terms in the White House ended. They landed a $65 million book deal with Penguin Random House in 2017. In 2018, they signed a deal to produce documentaries and series for Netflix, but the value or length of that contract wasn’t disclosed.
Their Spotify deal, signed in 2019, called for them to produce exclusive podcasts under their production company, Higher Ground Productions. The value of that deal also wasn’t disclosed. Under the deal, the Obamas churned out audio content including The Michelle Obama Podcast, which currently has 13 episodes live on the platform, Renegades: Born in the USA, a series of talks between Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen, “Tell Them, I Am”, hosted by Misha Euceph, a Pakistani-American who interviews other Muslim voices and the “Big Hit Show”, where former MTV News Executive Editor Alex Pappademas has dedicated entire seasons to the show TV show “Twilight” and to Kendrik Lamar’s 2015 “To Pimp A Butterfly Album”.
Audience numbers weren’t immediately available for any of the shows but it doesn’t appear that the Obamas were parting ways over money or listeners, but rather over strategy. Bloomberg’s story says that Spotify, like other streaming platforms, wants to build its programming around exclusives while the Obamas prefer their next deal to allow them to distribute content across a broader universe of streaming networks. That could mean whatever platform signs them is paying to produce content that ultimately lands on a competitor’s app.
This could explain iHeart’s interest given that it hasn’t historically relied on an exclusive strategy for its podcasts. This is one reason why some potential bidders, like Spotify, have bowed out — a widely released show will end up on their service anyway. Companies like Spotify and Amazon have pursued exclusive rights to promote their own services.
iHeart refers to iHeartMedia Inc., which owns radio stations and its own streaming service, and is also reportedly interested in landing the Obama’s next podcast deal.