Barack and Michelle Obama are leaving Spotify amid reports of frustration over the terms of their multimillion-dollar deal to exclusively make podcasts with the streaming giant, according to Bloomberg.
The Obamas announced in 2019 that they would partner exclusively with Spotify to release podcasts through their media company Higher Ground, in a deal rumored to be worth $25m. Renegades: Born in the USA, Barack Obama’s show with musician Bruce Springsteen, and The Michelle Obama Podcast, have both been successes for Spotify.
However, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Higher Ground will leave Spotify when the current deal ends in October, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the discussions as confirming that Higher Ground was talking to potential new partners and that Spotify had declined to make another offer.
The sources told Bloomberg that Higher Ground had become frustrated with the limited audience reach that came with the exclusive periods guaranteed to Spotify in the deal, and wanted to be able to distribute its shows more widely.
Spokespeople for both Higher Ground and Spotify have not yet commented.
Disagreements between Higher Ground and Spotify were first widely reported in February, with Spotify reportedly wanting the Obamas to personally appear in more shows, rather than one eight-episode limited series each. In turn, the Obamas were focused on promoting lesser-known voices on their slate of podcasts, which include Tell Them, I Am, which is focused on Muslim stories, and The Big Hit Show, which explores significant moments in pop culture.
The Obamas’ Spotify deal came amid a burst of post-presidency commercial deals for the couple, which included a Netflix deal to make movies and shows with Higher Ground, a record publishing deal for multiple books with Penguin Random House, and events for Live Nation.
Even though their podcasts will continue to be distributed through Spotify if Higher Ground signs a non-exclusive deal elsewhere, the Obamas’ exit would be a blow to the platform. The Swedish streaming giant signed the former president and first lady as part of its aggressive expansion into podcasting, spending more than $1bn to acquire several audio companies and strike deals with the likes of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Joe Rogan and Kim Kardashian.