To quote Instapundit, they told me if I voted for Trump we’d get a president who would use the office to launch a new media empire … and they were right! Forget Trump TV, though, and instead look for a new cultural trend of Obamaflix and chill. The New York Times reported last night that negotiations between the Obamas and Netflix have reached an “advanced” stage to provide the former president with a media platform of his own:
Former President Barack Obama is in advanced negotiations with Netflix to produce a series of high-profile shows that will provide him a global platform after his departure from the White House, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Under terms of a proposed deal, which is not yet final, Netflix would pay Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, for exclusive content that would be available only on the streaming service, which has nearly 118 million subscribers around the world. The number of episodes and the formats for the shows have not been decided.
That’s a change in position from the final weeks of Obama’s presidency. In December 2016, Mic editor Jacob Horowitz reported that Obama had already entered discussions for launching a new media company after leaving the White House. Horowitz, who previously worked for the Obama-linked Change.org, said he had multiple sources for the discussions:
President Barack Obama has been discussing a post-presidential career in digital media and is considering launching his own media company, according to multiple sources who spoke on background because they were not authorized to speak for the president.
Obama considers media to be a central focus of his next chapter, these sources say, though exactly what form that will take — a show streaming on Netflix, a web series on a comedy site or something else — remains unclear. Obama has gone so far as to discuss launching his own media company, according to one source with knowledge of the matter, although he has reportedly cooled on the idea of late.
The Obama White House wasted no time in throwing cold water on that notion:
White House communications director Jen Psaki denied that Obama was interested in entering the media business.
“While the president will remain actively engaged in inspiring young people and he is interested in the changing ways people consume information, he has no plans to get into the media business after he leaves office,” she told Mic.
Apparently, he has those plans now, which should delight his supporters. They may expect Obama to create Resistance TV, a platform which spends most of its time issuing full-frontal attacks on Donald Trump and his administration. The Times, however, suggests that the Obamas want to go in a different direction:
Mr. Obama does not intend to use his Netflix shows to directly respond to President Trump or conservative critics, according to people familiar with discussions about the programming. They said the Obamas had talked about producing shows that highlight inspirational stories.
But the Netflix deal, while not a direct answer to Fox News or Breitbart.com, would give Mr. Obama an unfiltered method of communication with the public similar to the audiences he already reaches through social media, with 101 million Twitter followers and 55 million people who have liked his Facebook page.
Maybe the Obamas figured there’s already too much competition in the Resistance TV market from the other established media outlets.
Besides, there is so much in his experience as president that Obama can mine for fiction, either in movies or television series. I’m sure that viewers can’t wait to see (No) Scandal, a Memento-esque film about an administration that insists in present time that it had no scandals only to have them revealed in ever-retreating flashback sequences. The unlimited run series Queue will follow the heartwarming and inspiring stories of veterans as they wait for a VA doctor to see them and get referrals to specialists, only to discover they’ve been part of a prank by bureaucrats to fatten their paychecks. Imagine the laughs that ensue when the bureaucrats get their bonuses as veterans die waiting for care! Come to think of it, there may be more material for gripping non-fiction here.
Even if Obama did want to create a media outlets for direct political advocacy, though, it would certainly be his right to do so. Traditionally, former presidents refrain from such activity, with the notable exception of Jimmy Carter, but that’s tradition and not a requirement. And something tells me that this particular tradition does not have a long time left, not necessarily because of Obama. He won’t be the last former president to build a media platform in his post-presidency either, so we may as well get used to it now.