Netflix subscribers may soon get to see the Obamas on the popular streaming platform if the New York Times’ report of “advanced” negotiations between the concerned parties is anything to go by.
If a mutually acceptable deal is arrived at, the Obamas will produce a series of “high-profile shows” exclusively for Netflix.
The streaming company will be the ideal platform for the former White House residents to reach out to a global audience of some 118 million Netflix subscribers.
While specifics of the shows being planned are not yet in the public domain, the Obamas have shown their leaning towards working on inspirational shows, according to the NYT.
“President and Mrs. Obama have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire,” Eric Schultz, a senior Obama adviser told the daily newspaper Thursday.
“Throughout their lives, they have lifted up stories of people whose efforts to make a difference are quietly changing the world for the better,” Schultz said.
“As they consider their future personal plans, they continue to explore new ways to help others tell and share their stories,” he added.
Towards the end of his term at the Oval Office, reports of Obama’s growing interest in pursuing digital media ventures post-presidency started doing the rounds.
“He is very interested in how people consume information and the changing trends,” Jen Psaki, the White House communications director at the time, told CNN.
The NYT sources familiar with the developing situation say that the former Oval Office two-termer will not use his shows as a platform to directly challenge the incumbent Trump or Republican critics.
Should the Netflix deal become a reality – the likelihood of which is not being doubted as of now – Mr. Obama will get access to an unfiltered system of communicating with a global audience, as the NYT rightly points out.
It’s a method the former president is familiar with – and he should well be – bearing in mind the 115-million-plus followers he reaches out to by way of his Twitter and Instagram accounts, not to mention the 55 million likes his Facebook page boasts.
One of the show ideas being floated is to have debates on topics concerning healthcare, climate change, immigration, voting rights and similar issues, with Obama as the debate moderator, the NYT said.
Another possibility that the newspaper claims is being considered, is a show featuring Michelle Obama, covering topics she had stood for during her time at the White House.
The newspaper also reports that the Obamas may well endorse documentaries and fictional shows on the streaming platform that conform to their tenets and principles.
The financial arrangement between the Obamas and Netflix, however, is still not known. It would be interesting to know the kind of paycheck the Obamas command, given that the media business is not one of their areas of expertise.
Agreed that their inexperience in producing shows may be a factor in their monetary stake, but there is no denying the fact that the Obamas have had ample exposure to television, and are pretty much familiar with being under the spotlight.
While the former first couple may have maintained a relatively low profile after they vacated the White House, they did continue with some of their public projects, such as the Inauguration Day launch of Obama.org, as well as a joint memoirs deal with Penguin Random House in March last year; not to forget the upcoming launch of Mrs. Obama’s book, “Becoming.”
It must be mentioned that Obama has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for his speeches throughout the world, with $60 million coming by way of their memoirs.
Regardless of how much finally exchanges hands, the deal is of great significance for both sides, notes Mark Borkowski, a PR and branding professional.
“It’s a massive deal for both parties and the only thing we can also be sure of is that it will also involve a massive amount of money,” Borkowski said. “This is another magical signing in the race to get as many eyeballs as possible.”
The fact that Netflix shares recorded an all-time high on the New York Stock Exchange after the news of the possible Netflix-Obama deal became known, vindicates the branding expert’s claim.
According to Barron’s, “Netflix’s stock climbed 3 percent in mid-morning trading, to [US]$326.61. For the year, they’re up nearly 69 percent.”
Borkowski is of the opinion that Netflix will be an appropriate platform for the Obamas to reach out to a world largely influenced by Trump’s Republican juggernaut, although, as aforementioned, there will be no direct criticisms of Trump or his administration.
“As far as he is concerned, how do you follow being the most powerful man in the world? And how do you counter that Trump narrative? What better way to do that than through television?” he said.
President Obama, who is reportedly a close friend of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, appeared on David Letterman’s new interview series “My Next Guest Needs no Introduction.” In fact, he was the first interviewee on the show.
With Amazon and Apple also vying to rope in the former president for their own streaming services, Netflix will be better off finalizing the deal sooner rather than later.