National News

Coming to Netflix: The Obamas Sign Deal to Produce Show

Posted May 21, 2018 3:41 p.m. EDT
Updated May 21, 2018 3:42 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama formally announced Monday a multiyear production deal with Netflix in which he and the former first lady, Michelle Obama, will produce television shows and films for the streaming service.

The deal will give Barack Obama an international television platform during his post-presidency, allowing him to reach millions of people in the United States and internationally. The couple has created “Higher Ground Productions,” a company to produce content for Netflix, the streaming service announced.

The former president has told associates that he does not intend to use the new platform to wage a public campaign against his successor in the Oval Office, or to fight against conservative voices that populate media outlets like Fox News.

Instead, a release from Netflix said the Obamas will produce “scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries and features” that highlight issues and themes the president pursued during his eight years in office.

“One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience,” Barack Obama said in a statement. “That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix — we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.”

Barack Obama has remained largely quiet since leaving office about a year and a half ago, despite calls from some of his supporters to be more active in fighting back against President Donald Trump’s assault on the Obama legacy.

The former president and his advisers have rejected that approach, believing that Obama would become a convenient political target for the current president. As a result, the Netflix deal is unlikely to be a vehicle for any sharp, partisan rhetoric by the former president, officials said.

Word of negotiations between Barack Obama and Netflix was first reported in The New York Times in March. Netflix did not disclose financial details of the arrangement, though similar deals between streaming services and high-profile celebrities have been worth many tens of millions of dollars over several years.

Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix, said the deal will benefit the service’s audience.

“Barack and Michelle Obama are among the world’s most respected and highly-recognized public figures and are uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better,” he said. “We are incredibly proud they have chosen to make Netflix the home for their formidable storytelling abilities.”