Why would Netflix hire the Obamas to create content?

When the New York Times reported that Barack and Michelle Obama, the former president and first lady of the United States, were in talks to produce content for Netflix, eyebrows rose across the entertainment industry. However one thinks of the Obama presidency, the idea of the former first couple becoming television producers would seem to have been the farthest from anyone’s mind.

Indeed, if one were looking for a retired politician with creative chops, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a prolific novelist and a documentary film maker in his own right, comes to mind. A miniseries based on Gingrich’s “Gettysburg” trilogy might just be the sort of thing that Netflix would be attracted to.

However, after due consideration, hiring the Obamas to produce issues-oriented content makes a lot of sense. Both have been involved in promoting their views on social issues for decades. The use of Netflix as a platform for continuing that life’s work would seem to be a no brainer.

One idea being bandied about would be to produce a series of films that tell inspirational stories that have social and political context. The trick, in order to make such content as accessible as possible, would be to emphasize the stories and to go light on whatever political message might be inherent in them.

Another idea would be to feature the former president as the host of a talk show, similar to many that air on cable news channels, where he could discuss issues from his unique point of view. The hypothetical Barack Obama Show might include interviews, panel discussions, and even a monologue. Channels such as Fox News and MSNBC have created vast audiences for such programming for the past two decades and more. Former President Obama has the advantage of having total name recognition. Even people who disagree with him will stream such a show out of curiosity, at least. The commentary on social and network media would provide such a show with publicity that could not possibly be bought.

Another role that the Obamas could play for Netflix would be to serve as talent scouts for their friends in the entertainment industry. Some of the most enthusiastic support for former President Obama during his various campaigns came from Hollywood. He is on a first-name basis with most of the big players in the entertainment industry and could persuade a few of them to create projects to run on Netflix. Even Steven Spielberg, who has expressed skepticism about Netflix and its model, might be persuaded if the former president called him on the phone and asked him to.