Were any further proof needed that Netflix really has taken over the (media) world, it could be found in its latest alleged signing: President Barack Obama.
The former leader of the free world—who has kept a remarkably low profile since Donald Trump defeated his party in the 2016 election—is reportedly in “advanced negotiations” with Netflix to produce a series of shows for the streaming service, which has more than 100 million global subscribers.
According to a report in the New York Times, Obama and his wife Michelle will not use their shows to engage or react to Trumpism (that’s what Twitter, where Obama has 100 million followers, is for) but to showcase “inspirational stories.”
So, look out Oprah.
The report adds that the Obamas may also “moderate conversations on topics that dominated his presidency—health care, voting rights, immigration, foreign policy, climate change,” while Michelle could host a show about healthy eating.
While this may hardly sound like the stuff of blockbuster ratings (which, perhaps fortunately for the Obamas, Netflix does not release) the Obamas’ decision to go with Netflix reflects a canny awareness of the ability of streamers to be less ratings-obsessed than traditional broadcasters.
And the presence of Obama as a face of Netflix, while possibly divisive in the U.S., will give the company a huge credibility and PR boost in foreign territories, where Obama remains almost universally beloved.
The Times suggests that the Obamas may even endorse a range Netflix shows that “align with” their values.
The value of the deal was not reported, however Netflix has previously said it has $8 billion to spend on original content this year. The Obamas are not known for underselling themselves, with reported $60 million memoir deals and a lucrative presence on the international speaker circuit. Obama is said to have also been courted by Apple and Amazon.
The deal comes even though Obama’s previous Netflix appearance, as a special guest on David Letterman’s show, was widely rated a snoozefest (although Obama’s choice of broadcaster for his first major post-office interview does now make a little more sense) and previous attempts by political figures to enter the media market (Al Gore’s cable network, anyone?) have not been deemed unequivocal successes.
Netflix declined to comment.
“President and Mrs. Obama have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire,” Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to the former president, told the Times. “Throughout their lives, they have lifted up stories of people whose efforts to make a difference are quietly changing the world for the better. As they consider their future personal plans, they continue to explore new ways to help others tell and share their stories.”