The production deal between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to the world at large – and entertainment giant Netflix appears to be on the ropes as at least one of the couple’s projects has been axed. With reports that the duo is to be paid well north of $100 million for their efforts, Netflix might expect a significant return on investment. But it seems the high hopes of the belabored streaming service have met the brick wall of reality, and it may be ready to hand the royal couple a pink slip.
Royal Persona Non Grata
To discover why Harry and Meghan’s burgeoning careers as content creators went awry, it’s worth considering the reason they are being paid an exorbitant amount in the first place. Was it because the not-so-dynamic duo had a solid track record of taking creative projects from inception to completion? Certainly not. Nor did the couple formerly-known-as-royal have experience in managing teams of entertainment-oriented acolytes. But what they did have was access. Note the past tense.
The Oprah Winfrey interview that sparked thousands of hours of televised chatter and even more column inches was an ember that Netflix hoped to breathe into a flame, but it seems that was a one-shot deal. Dishing dirt and unsubstantiated accusations of racism has never been a prelude to a closer relationship; with the dirty-laundry airing, the Sussexes made themselves personae-non-grata at the royal table.
During the couple’s recent visit to the UK, Prince Charles granted just a 15-minute audience to his second son, perhaps wary that any conversation of substance was likely to find its way into a Netflix documentary.
Markle was most recently involved in an animated series that appeared to be based on a fictionalized version of herself as a young girl who finds inspiration from numerous “historical influential women.” As part of a broader sweep of cuts to manage Netflix’s recent profit losses, it is of little surprise that a woke cartoon would be first on the chopping block. Harry and Meghan may have distanced themselves from the royal family to demonstrate their progressive credentials, but that may not be what their audience really craves. The mega-streaming company wanted the inside scoop on the Family Windsor, but what it got was a pair of outsiders who now are viewed with suspicion, if not outright disdain. Could it be that creators of social-justice-oriented content are now a dime a dozen and that what Netflix really wanted was no more than gossip, gossip, gossip?
A Not-So-Jubilant Jubilee
Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee at the beginning of June marks her 70th year on the throne. Among other festivities will be the popular Trooping of the Colour – a military parade that officially honors the monarch’s birthday. The prize viewing point is the Buckingham Palace balcony, where members of the family will observe the festivities. Meghan and Harry will not be permitted to attend, as the palace informed that the coveted location would be solely for “working royals.” It is also notable that Prince Andrew will not be there either after his recent Jeffrey Epstein-connection scandal. The Sussexes appear to have joined poor company, indeed.
With Netflix hoping for an insider’s view of life in the royal family, the fact that neither Harry nor Meghan will be part of the big show must surely put a damper on hopes for exclusive footage. Added to this are reports that the young couple’s filming crew is to be “barred” from recording inside the palace, leaving a damp squib of a production.
A palace insider told The Sun newspaper that “[e]ven if they [Harry and Meghan] accept that their Netflix crew can’t go into Buckingham Palace to film, they could cause problems — and at the very least cause a major distraction.” The source further explained: “Senior courtiers believe that Netflix will see it as one big opportunity to exploit their mega-millions agreement with the couple … So, a team of Palace aides will be on standby to keep a very close eye on the crew, and act as minders if needs be.”
Once Bitten …
By attempting to trash the reputation of the royal family in Oprah’s NBC special, the Sussexes spent their capital and their value in one sordid spree. They have ostracized themselves from the unique access they once possessed and put on guard those who ordinarily would have provided fuel to the Duke and Duchess’ burgeoning media empire.
With the Netflix offer in hand, Harry and Meghan have cast away their vow never to return to the UK and sought to play happy (royal) families once more. That Queen Elizabeth and other notable members of the family are wary of a rapprochement displays clearly why the idea of a royal family has endured throughout centuries of parliamentary democracy in the British Isles: Caution and circumspection are the watchwords.
The way in which the Sussexes have attempted to amass wealth in showbusiness is but one aspect of the embarrassment the royal family is no doubt feeling. That the pair would further attempt to cash in on palace gossip and behind-the-scenes exposés adds insult to injury.
Crass sensationalism by the Sussexes may have forever put them on the outside. This was something that Harry, raised in the unique environment, should have known all too well. That Meghan and Netflix are only now discovering that palace intrigue is reserved purely for those on the inside may prove to be a very rude, and very expensive, awakening.