Former President Barack Obama, and Former First Lady Michelle Obama, will not renew their exclusive partnership with Spotify, according to three people familiar with the matter. Bloomberg appears to be the first to report this news.
The former first family’s production company, Higher Ground, won’t be signing a new deal with the audio platform according to people familiar with the negotiations. The company is instead talking to other distributors about a deal worth tens of millions of dollars, among the most-lucrative in the podcasting business.
According to Bloomberg, Higher Ground is in the middle of negotiations with several potential partners, including Amazon.com Inc’s Audible and iHeartMedia Inc., said the people, who asked not to be identified because the conversations are private. Higher Ground is seeking a deal that will allow it to produce several shows and release them on multiple platforms at the same time. Bloomberg reported that this could explain iHeart’s interest given that it hasn’t historically relied on an exclusive strategy for its podcasts.
Spotify and Higher Ground partnered in June of 2019. Under the Higher Grounds partnership, both Obamas would develop, produce, and lend their voices to select podcasts, connecting them to listeners around the world on wide-ranging topics. The multi-year agreement was with Higher Ground Audio, an expansion of the Higher Ground production company that would oversee the move into podcasts.
In 2020, Higher Ground and Spotify announced The Michelle Obama Podcast. The show was hosted by Michelle Obama, who brought in special guests to discuss topics like sibling relationships and raising children to girlfriends, women’s health, mentorship, and marriage. Bloomberg reported that The Michelle Obama Podcast was one of Spotify’s five most popular podcasts in 2020.
CNN reported in 2021 that Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen have teamed up to host a podcast about masculinity, race, fatherhood, and their professional and personal journeys. The podcast was called Renegades: Born in the USA and was part of a multi-year partnership between Spotify and Higher Ground.
The Verge reported that it is unclear if the controversy with the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, and/or the musicians who removed their work from Spotify, contributed to the Obamas’ decision to look for hosting elsewhere.
Considering everything I’ve read about this news, it sounds like Higher Ground is interested in creating and producing podcasts that will not be exclusive to Spotify. It also appears that Spotify is either hesitant about that deal, or is not interested in podcasts that will not be exclusive to their platform.