April 22, 2022
Higher Ground, the media company started by former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, is ending its exclusive podcast deal with Spotify and is shopping for other partners in the podcasting space, reports Variety.
The Obamas are exiting their exclusive pact with Spotify, originally inked in 2019, after being frustrated with the company’s exclusive terms: They want to have their podcast programming distributed as widely as possible, according to two sources familiar with the situation.
Higher Ground also has disagreed with Spotify over how many of its shows would feature the former POTUS and FLOTUS, as first reported by reported by Bloomberg.
Podcasts that Higher Ground has produced for Spotify will continue to launch on the streaming platform through the fall, according to the Bloomberg report. But the company is currently in talks with other audio distribution companies, including Amazon-owned Audible and iHeartMedia, in hopes of reaching a nonexclusive deal for its podcast content.
Higher Ground’s first podcast for Spotify was “The Michelle Obama Podcast,” released in mid-2020, which at one point had ranked as the most-listened-to Spotify original to date. The company also produced “Renegades: Born in the USA,” a series of conversations between Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen, released on Spotify last year.
In January, Higher Ground’s “The Big Hit Show,” focused on transformational moments of pop culture, premiered on Spotify. The company also released “Tell Them, I Am,” a podcast collection of universal stories from Muslim voices on the platform.
Spotify will retain certain distribution rights to “The Michelle Obama Podcast” and other Higher Ground shows in perpetuity. In addition, wherever the Obamas take their next podcast deal, it is likely that those new projects would be distributed on Spotify on a nonexclusive basis.
Separately, Higher Ground has a pact to produce films and TV shows exclusively for Netflix. The company’s first film, “American Factory,” won the 2019 Oscar for best documentary feature.
Reps for both Spotify and Higher Ground declined to comment.
Research contact: @Variety