It’s been confirmed by sources close to negotiations that Higher Ground, the podcast company founded by Barack and Michelle Obama, will not be renewing its deal with Spotify. Spotify allegedly decided to not make an offer after several rounds of talks with Higher Ground, so the company is continuing talks with places such as Amazon subsidiary Audible and iHeartMedia and hopes to close a new deal in the coming weeks.

There were apparently multiple points of contention between Higher Ground and Spotify, including pressure from Spotify to feature more content exclusively with the Obama family while Higher Ground wanted to make shows with a variety of creators, and Spotify taking issue with Higher Ground’s desire to primarily produce limited series instead of long-running shows. Both Barack and Michelle Obama only agreed to participate in eight episodes each of any given podcast, which is far less than the length of most popular shows.

The main conflict that killed the deal, however, is thought to be the issue of exclusivity. Spotify did allow for some Higher Ground shows to be brought to different platforms, but usually after a months-long exclusive period on their platform. The Obamas will likely be seeking more freedom to release shows wherever they want with their next partner.

Higher Ground also has an arm producing six series and features for Netflix, with a recent release being Our Great National Parks narrated by Barack Obama. They even have fiction projects in development including a YA series based on the bestselling novel Firekeeper’s Daughter by Chippewa author Angeline Boulley.


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Some Spotify podcasts have been recently embroiled in controversy, including The Joe Rogan Experience which caught heat for platforming several people spreading misinformation about Covid-19 treatment and vaccines. Spotify made an exclusive deal with Joe Rogan in 2020 that was worth a reported $100 million to keep him on the platform.

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