The name Ted Sarandos may not sound familiar, but it’s entirely possible that if it weren’t for him, Netflix wouldn’t have announced a multi-year deal with Barack and Michelle Obama earlier this week. Sarandos was a major campaign contributor for Obama during his 2012 presidential run where he bundled nearly $600,000 in contributions from friends and associates, according to the New York Post. His friendship with the Obamas could stem from his wife Nicole Avant, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Barbados from 2009 to 2011, which was during his first presidential run.
Sarandos is also Netflix’s chief content officer who is tasked with overseeing their $8 billion budget. According to the New York Post, Sarandos helped broker the deal between the Obamas and the streaming service because, as the adage goes, it’s not always what you know, but who you know.
"Barack and Michelle Obama are among the world’s most respected and highly-recognized 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," Sarandos said in a statement after the deal was made official. "We are incredibly proud they have chosen to make Netflix the home for their formidable storytelling abilities."
The Obamas created Higher Ground Productions LLC to help finalize their deal. They will be tasked with producing "a diverse mix of content, including the potential for scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries and features." Netflix says it has received "hundreds of résumés and story ideas" since the partnership was announced.