Obamas Higher Ground: Leaves Spotify for Audible Multiyear Deal

The multimillion-dollar deal is a major win for the Amazon-owned audio company as it inks deals with star-driven banners.

The Obamas’ Higher Ground has struck exclusive, multiyear first-look deal with Audible, marking a major win for the Amazon-owned audio company as it continues on production deals in Hollywood.

The move to Audible follows Higher Ground’s exit from Spotify, where the production company–founded by Barack and Michelle Obama–previously had multiyear deal to create podcasts exclusively for the Stockholm-based audio giant.

Though Audible’s original content, known as Audible Originals, are typically made available only for subscribers, the Amazon-owned company does offer some of its original content on all major audio platforms, providing the Obamas with the opportunity to reach a broader audience in comparison to Spotify.

In statement on Tuesday, former First Lady Michelle Obama noted how the deal with Audible will allow Higher Ground to “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.” A spokesperson for Higher Ground said that the two companies “plan to make the Audible Originals available to the widest possible audience.”

While the deal with Audible, which is worth million dollars, has already gone into effect, Higher Ground still has a few remaining episodes and shows from its Spotify contract to release.

Those projects include the final two chapters of Alex Pappademas’ The Big Hit Show, which will drop later this year; the July release of The Sum of Us Podcast, based on the book by Heather McGhee; and an unannounced podcast that will be released at a later date. Higher Ground’s back catalogue of shows created for Spotify — including Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen’s Renegades: Born in the USA and The Michelle Obama Podcast — will remain available on all major podcast platforms, even though some shows initially debuted as Spotify exclusives.

Rachel Ghiazza, Audible’s executive vp and head of U.S. content, and Zola Mashariki, head of Audible Studios, said the company seeks to create partnerships with talent by offering a wide berth of creative freedom as well as support from Audible’s in-house audio teams. “We’re not trying to do, necessarily, a one-and-done situation,” Ghiazza said in April of the company’s dealmaking process. “We’re signing up to be partners for a really long time.”

With its first-look deal with Audible, Higher Ground will be joining a roster that includes stars like Kerry Washington, Issa Rae, George Clooney, Lena Waithe, Laura Dern, Queen Latifah, LeBron James, Kevin Hart and Charlamagne tha God — all of whom have inked multiyear deals with Audible through their various productions.

Higher Ground’s exit from Spotify also marks a turning point for Spotify’s $1 billion podcast expansion, where some of those funds have gone toward exclusive deals with high-profile talent like the Obamas and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, as well as major podcast creators like Joe Rogan and Call Her Daddy host Alex Cooper.

But amid reorganization of the company’s podcast leadership team, acquisitions of major audio tech companies in the next few years, Spotify may turn more of its focus toward growing its existing stable of podcasts and making progress into narrative fiction, especially given the recent success of Batman Unburiedthe Spotify original series created with Warner and DC.

“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,” President Obama said. “I’m looking forward to partnering with them to tell stories that not only entertain but also inspire.”