Barack and Michelle Obama, who have hosted a number of podcasts on Spotify through their production company Higher Ground since 2019, are reportedly preparing to shop around for a new home as their three-year deal with the audio streaming giant approaches its end date.
It’s possible the Obamas could renew their contract with Spotify, but competitors like Apple and Amazon have made significant investments in podcasts in the last three years and could prove to be larger competitors than before, according to anonymous sources that spoke with Insider.
The Higher Ground Audio team is reportedly frustrated with the slow pace of development at Spotify, one source said. It can be hard to receive a greenlight on the platform, and pitches from Higher Ground don’t always alight with Spotify’s focus on shows that can reach a broad audience.
According to Insider, the Obamas are "marquee partners for Spotify and it would be a significant loss for the service if they were to take their podcast business elsewhere," with the end of their contract coming as the company deals with backlash to the Joe Rogan Experience, which has prompted musicians like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young to remove their music.
The first show made under the Obama’s contract, "The Michelle Obama Podcast," was among the platforms most popular podcasts during its exclusive run, though was later made available by the platform to rival podcast apps.
Former President Barack Obama also hosted his own Spotify show, "Renegades: Born in the USA," in which he appeared alongside musician Bruce Springsteen.
Other Higher Ground Audio podcasts made for Spotify includes the Muslim voices-based "Tell Them, I Am," and pop culture-centric "The Big Hit Show."
Spotify has reportedly spent well over $1 billion to move beyond its vast music content, and into the broader audio market. The platform, as part of its efforts, has scooped up podcast studios like Gimlet Media and The Ringer, and brought in big names like the Obamas, Rogan, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
The strategy has appeared to work so far, with Spotify saying in October that it ranked ahead of Apple Podcasts as the most popular podcast app in the US, citing third-party data from Edison Research.