Netflix Lands Barack Obama for Letterman Show

Having the former U.S. President as its first guest makes this Netflix original the next in a long line of impressive feats.

Danny Vena
Danny Vena
Jan 10, 2018 at 7:44AM
Technology and Telecom

Streaming pioneer Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) has long believed that original content is the key to its continued success. In its 2017 third quarter investor letter, the company stated, "Our future largely lies in exclusive original content that drives both excitement around Netflix and enormous viewing satisfaction for our global membership and its wide variety of tastes." To that end, the company plans to spend between $7 billion and $8 billion on content in 2018, toward a goal of making half its content original programming. 

Netflix made a splash last year, when it announced it had lured iconic talk show host David Letterman out of retirement to star in a 6-episode long-format interview show for the streaming giant. The show, which will be titled My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, will debut on Friday, January 12, 2018 and the first episode will feature former U.S. President Barack Obama.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama smiling talking to David Letterman.

A series of high-profile guests for David Letterman is a coup for Netflix. Image source: Netflix.

Old face, new format

Letterman, known for his 33-year stint on late night television, will conduct an in-depth interview with a single guest in each of the show's hour-long episodes, and hold the conversation outside of the studio. This is a departure from Letterman's successful formula which included a monologue, multiple guests, and a top-10 lists among other gimmicks. 

Landing the former U.S. President is a huge coup for the show, as Obama has largely stayed out of the public spotlight since his term ended in January 2017, and has not granted a television interview since leaving the White House, though he did participate in a radio interview with Britain's Prince Harry last month.

Gaining a big name like Letterman was itself an impressive feat for Netflix. The stand-up comedian and talk show host is has 52 Emmy nominations, and 10 wins, according to Netflix.

Other upcoming high-profile guests on the show will include George Clooney, Malala Yousafzai, Jay-Z, Tina Fey, and Howard Stern. In something of a departure from its typical format, Netflix will release one new show in each of the coming months, rather than all at once, as has been its hallmark. 

Growing A-list of talent

Netflix has been pursuing its original content strategy by employing a growing list of big names to create its programming.

The company made the first acquisition in its 20-year history, purchasing Millarworld, the creative force responsible for such box office hits as Captain America: Civil War, The Avengers, and Logan. The comic books behind these blockbusters were penned by founder Mark Millar, whose work also served as the foundation for movies such as Kick-Ass, Wanted, and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Millar recently created his first original work for Netflix, The Magic Order, a six-issue series that will be released in print sometime in the spring of 2018.

Netflix also made headlines in recent months with some of its other big signings, enlisting the talents of some of the most well-known names in television. The company signed writer and producer Shonda Rhimes, who wrote the Emmy-award winning program Grey's Anatomy, as well as hits Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. Netflix also signed an exclusive multi-year deal with Jenji Kohan, who is known for her hit show Weeds and Netflix originals Orange is The New Black and GLOW. No word yet on what projects Rhimes and Kohan will be working on.

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The secret of our success

In mid-2017, Netflix blasted past its own forecast and those of analysts when the company added 5.2 million new subscribers for the quarter, compared to estimates for 3.2 million. In its quarterly shareholder letter, the company explained, "We underestimated the popularity of our strong slate of content which led to higher-than-expected acquisition across all major territories." 

Continuing to add A-list talent and blockbuster guests like a former U.S. President will likely add to the company's continuing positive momentum and add untold millions of new subscribers.