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Netflix’s Ted Sarandos Teases Obama Projects

Barack and Michelle Obama’s Netflix production deal may see the former first couple become the streaming service’s next stars.

“I hope so,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos when asked whether the Obamas would appear on camera in any of the projects they’re developing for the streaming giant.

The Obamas in May signed a deal with Netflix to produce original content for the streaming service. Sarandos indicated on Tuesday that the form that content will take is beginning to become clear.

“They have their eyes on film and television, fiction and non-fiction,” Sarandos said. “They want to do programming, storytelling that fits in with what they did during the presidency, obviously.” He said that among the topics the Obamas may cover are sports, lifestyle, and nutrition — but not politics. “It’s going to be great storytelling.”

Sarandos was joined onstage by Lisa Nishimura, Netflix’s head of documentary and comedy programming, and Maclain Way and Chapman Way, creators of the six-and-a-half-hour documentary series “Wild Wild Country,” about the Rajneeshpuram community, which the service released earlier this year.

Maclain Way drew a surprised reaction from the crowd at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in Beverly Hills on Tuesday when he appeared to take a shot at a Netflix competitor that passed on “Wild Wild Country.”

“To be honest, the reception was pretty cold at a lot of places,” Maclain Way said. “A lot of people were looking for a very name-recognizable celebrity with a built-in audience.” He added, “We had a meeting with a network executive at a place who was like, ‘What celebrities were part of this group?’ And then it was like, ‘Well, can we get a celebrity narrator to narrate it?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, this meeting’s not going well.'”

Asked by moderator Joanna Coles who the meeting was with, Way said, “It was HBO.”

Sarandos also spoke about the company’s overall deal with television producer Ryan Murphy, valued at more than $100 million.

“We’ve licensed most of Ryan Murphy’s programming for years in secondary windows on Netflix all around the world,” Sarandos said. “So we’ve got a pretty good idea of what people are watching.” He added, “I don’t think that people know that they’re watching a Ryan Murphy show all the time, but these shows have a sensibility that talks to them. It’s a little sexy, darkly funny.”

Of the deal with Murphy, he said, “I think we sized that deal to his proportionate value. And there’s an efficiency to what we’re doing.”

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