Spotify caused a sensation last year when it announced an exclusive podcast deal with the Obamas Higher Ground production studio. Today the company made a diplomatic tour. The company says it will release the first season of Michelle Obama’s podcast on “a number” of other podcast listening platforms starting tomorrow, September 30, two weeks after the show’s first season finale.
The company hasn’t specified which platforms will have the show, but is in conversation with several, including Stitcher, Google, Apple, and iHeart. A Spotify spokesperson says future seasons, if the show is renewed, will “debut exclusively”
Obama’s expansion of the show could help Spotify find a wider audience while bringing listeners back to the platform at the same time. He has tested this strategy with other shows, including Dope Labs, Son of Hitman, is InCharge with DVF, although it’s unclear whether these shows are gaining listeners on Spotify. (Ads within some of these previously exclusive shows promote Spotify, even on other platforms.) It’s also unclear whether the Higher Ground deal has always represented a broader release – a Spotify spokesperson wouldn’t comment.
This news amounts to a 180 degree turnaround for the audio company. While he has piloted the strategy with other shows, the Obamas are some of the biggest stars – and arguably the biggest investments – that Spotify has set out to make available outside of its platform. The company has drawn attention to its podcast ambitions thanks to its flamboyant acquisitions and launches of exclusive shows from big names, like the one starring Kim Kardashian West. In fact, Spotify’s press release on the Higher Ground deal says the partnership will “produce exclusive podcasts for the platform,” so it’s odd to see Spotify making this first show widely available after all the exclusive hype.
At the same time, some exclusive hosts have been talking about unfair deals in recent months. Joe Budden, one of Spotify’s original exclusive hosts, sued the platform last month, saying he was planning to leave after his contract expired on September 23. An episode hasn’t been posted to her feed since September 19. The hosts of The Nod, originally a Gimlet Media show, also said in June that they wanted to own their podcast because Spotify, which acquired Gimlet, now owns the IP of the show.
It doesn’t look like the broader release of the Obama show has come out of similar problems with Spotify, but it still feels like it’s coming out of the left camp.
Update 9/29, 5:41 pm ET: Updated to reflect that all future seasons of The Michelle Obama Podcast will debut exclusively on Spotify.