Barack and Michelle Obama have found a new home for their podcasts at Amazon’s audio storytelling platform Audible. The news comes just two months after the former first couple parted ways with Spotify after failing to come to a renewal agreement with the company.
The Obamas’ Higher Ground Productions signed an “exclusive, worldwide, multi-project, multi-year first-look production deal,” Audible announced in a press release on Tuesday, June 21.
According to the release, the Obamas’ slate of shows “will reflect the companies’ shared mission to tell meaningful and entertaining stories that elevate diverse voices and experiences.”
There may also be some pre-existing synergy as the duo’s former press secretary, James Carney, has been the senior vice president of global corporate affairs at Amazon since 2015. All parties expressed excitement at partnering together to continue the former president and first lady’s audio storytelling ventures.
“At Higher Ground, we have always sought to lift up voices that deserve to be heard — and Audible is invested in realizing that vision alongside us. I’m looking forward to partnering with them to tell stories that not only entertain but also inspire,” President Obama said in a statement.
“We are so proud of the stories we have been able to tell at Higher Ground, and there’s no one we’d rather write our next chapter with than Audible,” Michelle Obama echoed her husband. “Together, we will keep striving to tell compelling, provocative, and soulful stories—while doing everything we can to make sure they reach the folks who need to hear them.”
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“We have long recognized President and Mrs. Obama’s historic capacity to captivate,” said Don Katz, Audible’s founder and executive chairman. “We are thrilled to welcome two of the most profound voices of moral and intellectual leadership of our times into the Audible fold, and to be able to elevate President and Mrs. Obama’s singular ability to provide hope and uplifting guidance — needed now more than ever — through their voices.”
“For so long we have been inspired by the Obamas. Their passion, curatorial style and ingenuity is reflected in the content they have created across all mediums, as well as the talented team they have assembled at Higher Ground,” said Zola Mashariki, Head of Audible Studios. “We are beyond thrilled to collaborate on audio-first original content that highlights their profoundly unique content and vision.”
Founded by the Obamas in 2018, Higher Ground is an Oscar and Emmy award-winning media company that has produced films and podcasts on various platforms. In 2019, the company inked a three-year deal with Spotify under which it produced several shows.
Among the Obamas’ podcast offerings produced during their deal with Spotify are: “The Michelle Obama Podcast,” which the company said is Spotify’s most listened to original podcast to date; “Renegades: Born in the USA,” which features conversations between President Obama and Bruce Springsteen; “Tell Them, I Am” and “The Big Hit Show.”
According to a report by Bloomberg, anonymous sources told the outlet the Obamas and Spotify couldn’t come to an agreement on the number of podcast episodes they would appear in, nor the exclusivity of having their shows only released on the platform.
Though the Obamas have parted ways with Spotify, the deal runs through October 2022 and three upcoming podcasts are still set to be released under it. They include: “The Sum of Us,” a podcast based on Heather McGhee’s book “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together;” and the final two chapters of “The Big Hit Show.”
“We are incredibly proud of our partnership with Higher Ground and while we declined to extend our deal we are excited about the series we made together and those still to come in the months ahead,” a Spotify rep told Variety.
PHOTO: Former President Barack Obama, right, and former first lady Michelle Obama appear at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago on Oct. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)