Flying High

Barack and Michelle Obama on stage

Some good news for a change: one of the most celebrated presidents of recent times, and his equally revered former First Lady have joined forces with one of the world’s most popular streaming platforms, for a marriage made in TV heaven.

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground is to make seven new feature films and shows for Netflix, following an “eight-figure deal” they signed with the on-demand service last year. The projects, which are in various stages of development, and which will be released over the next few years, include the documentaries American Factory, showing what happened when a Chinese billionaire opened a new factory in a post-industrial Ohio, and Fifth Risk, an adaptation of Michael Lewis’ bestseller Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy, which examines the political appointments of the Donald Trump presidency.

Others include Bloom,  an ‘upstairs/downstairs’-style drama set in post-WWII New York; Overlooked, which tells the stories of amazing individuals whose deaths were unreported; and the documentary Crip Camp, about a pioneering summer camp for disabled teenagers in the early 1970.

“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,” said the former president of the deal made with Higher Ground, named after the song by Stevie Wonder, who performed it at Obama’s inauguration concert in 2009, and which was used as one of the campaign's unofficial theme songs.

Added Michelle, “Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others. Netflix's unparalleled service is a natural fit for the kinds of stories we want to share, and we look forward to starting this exciting new partnership.”

Netflix, first conceived in 1997 and worth an estimated $3.7bn, is extremely well positioned to promote Higher Ground’s content: in April of this year it recorded nearly 150 million paid subscriptions worldwide, including 60 million in the United States alone. Netflix's content chief Ted Sarandos said the company was “incredibly proud” of the Obamas involvement. “[They] are among the world's most respected and highly recognised 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.”

This isn’t the first time Netflix has shown its political stripes: CEO Reed Hastings, who supported Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, said of President Donald Trump, prior to his election, “He would destroy much of what is great about America.” While the Obamas deal has also been met with criticism from conservatives, who threatened to cancel their subscriptions.