The first look at Obama’s Higher Ground Inks with Audible. | Daily News Podcast


Despite its high profile founders – Barack and Michelle Obama – Higher Ground has yet to deliver more than one hit podcast as its three-year deal with Spotify draws to a close. But the former first couple will seek to change that trajectory by signing a first production deal with Audible. The multi-year deal will give the audiobook and podcast company access to the content that Higher Ground creates not only in podcasts, but in other media as well.

The joint announcement says the new partnership “reinforces Higher Ground’s commitment to audio” and that the slate of shows it plans to develop with Audible “will reflect the companies’ shared mission to tell meaningful stories and entertaining stories that elevate diverse voices and experiences”.

Financial terms were not disclosed. Higher Ground’s previous three-year deal with Spotify paid the Obamas $25 million. Bloomberg earlier reported that Higher Ground was in talks with Audible, iHeartMedia and others about a potential deal.

“At Higher Ground, we have always sought to raise voices that deserve to be heard – and Audible is invested in realizing this vision alongside us,” President Obama said in a statement. “I look forward to partnering with them to tell stories that not only entertain but also inspire,” he said.

Higher Ground has been working with Spotify since June 2019, but it has delivered few shows to the streamer. The Michelle Obama Podcast was one of Spotify’s top shows of 2020, but its follow-up had mixed reviews and reportedly fewer downloads. Renegades: Born in the USA was a conversation series featuring former president and rocker Bruce Springsteen. Higher Ground also launched the Alex Pappademas-hosted series The Big Hit Show in January and last year featured Tell Them, I Am, a collection of stories from Muslim voices.

Higher Ground’s current deal with Spotify runs until October 2022 and at least one additional new show will be released under this arrangement. The Sum of Us is set to debut this summer. It is based on Heather McGhee’s book “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together”. Two more seasons of The Big Hit Show are also expected.

“We’re so proud of the stories we’ve been able to tell at Higher Ground, and there’s no one we’d rather write our next chapter with than Audible,” Michelle Obama said. “Together, we will continue to strive to tell captivating, provocative and moving stories, while doing everything we can to ensure they reach the people who need to hear them.”

Spotify reportedly pushed the Obamas to play a bigger role in the podcasts it released. Audible gave no idea what the two companies have planned, and instead suggested it would play a role in their management’s decision.

“Audible has struck a perfect match in our new collaboration with Higher Ground,” said Rachel Ghiazza, Audible’s executive vice president and head of US content. “We are honored to now be developing original work with the team at Higher Ground, taking listeners to new, uncharted territories and expanding their imaginations and consciousness – a goal at the heart of all Audible content.”

Another unknown is whether Audible plans to carry Higher Ground shows widely. Under its expiring deal with Spotify, after an exclusive window, podcasts were available on most listening apps. Audible’s business model is that certain shows are only available to its subscribers.

Audible already offers audio versions of Michelle Obama’s best-selling “Becoming” and President Obama’s “A Promised Land.”


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