As for book launches, the publication of Prince HarryThis week’s memoir was the kind of rollout mere mortals can only dream of. 60 minutes and Good morning America here and with ITV in Britain; a laudatory appearance The late show with Stephen Colbert; and, of course, a maelstrom of earned media attending the royal book tour, including TV news segments that boosted sales and a wall-to-wall tabloid bacchanal, masterfully illustrated by the online news feed of the Sussexes’ bête noire, the Daily mail. By the end of its best before date on Tuesday, according to publisher Penguin Random House, Reserve had become – with the help of a megawatt ghostwriter – the UK’s fastest-selling non-fiction book ever and PRH’s largest-ever first-day non-fiction release, selling over 1.43 million copies in the US, Canada and Great Britain.
This was Harry’s second record in as many months. In December, when everyone could only talk about Harry and Megan Markle‘s six-part Netflix drama dump, the streamer announced Harry and Megan had become his best-watched documentary debut ever, with more than 28 million households – just four days after its debut – devouring the series’ radiant portrait of the couple, whether out of love, curiosity or old-fashioned hatred. As Netflix closed a year in which subscriber numbers fell for the first time in more than a decade — a stumbling block that injected a dose of cold hard reality into the go-go streaming era — it was just what the doctor ordered.
It therefore appears that Harry and Meghan’s business partners are getting a return on the gazillions they spent on the royals in exile – a rumored $20 million for PRH and a reported $100 million for Netflix, not to mention of the reported $25 million deal Spotify made with Harry and Meghan, who have sucked us in with their behind-the-scenes look at dramatic bends, palace backstabbing, and physical changes between once-beloved brothers. that makes it difficult to judge the whole thing as an unqualified success, at least not judging by the chatter I intercepted this week from a handful of Hollywood muck.
“If the source of your content and your story and storytelling is just a giant pity party, it’s over,” one executive told me. “What else is there to say? Everyone shakes their heads.” Another said, “Okay, now you’ve been told all this shit, but there’s a shelf life to these things. Something can look like it’s the biggest thing in the world, and then, boom, it’s gone. Everyone in our company is like, “Shut up, it’s enough.” But of course everyone still follows it fanatically.”
This anonymous rumble resonated on a front page New York Times piece on Tuesday Sarah Lyall, who suggested: “More worrying for Harry and Meghan is whether the constant public re-litigation of their issues has become so repetitive or even tiresome that it has eroded their personal brand and damaged their potential future earnings. Once they have the subject of themselves exhausted, what have they left to talk about?” Harry and Meghan’s spokeswoman countered: “These throwback projects have been years in the making, and now that they’ve been delivered, this chapter is closed. It in no way shapes what’s to come from the couple. They look looking forward to it and are ready for what comes next.”
When Harry and Meghan first put together the pieces of their burgeoning content empire, it was considered a page from the Obama playbook: making movies and TV shows for Netflix, making podcasts for Spotify, lighting up the bestseller lists with blockbuster memoirs . (I was assured that Meghan is not, in fact, working on a book, despite reports in the British press to the contrary.) In March 2021, on the heels of a stage set Oprah winfrey interview — which drew a global audience of nearly 50 million in the first two days after it aired and announced the juicy tell-alls to come —Tina Brown told me, “They’ve reached a whole new audience that now can’t wait to see what happens next.” Media analyst Rich Greenfield was just as excited: “I think this clearly shows, whatever their profile was ahead of time in the US and globally, it’s obviously much bigger now.”
Two years later, the Sussexes’ output is relatively small, even when you consider the high-octane releases of the past month. Harry and Megan and Reserve. Before that, Meghan’s highly anticipated Spotify podcast was the most they had to show for themselves as media players. archetypes, which finally premiered in August, heralded by digital billboards from Times Square to Los Angeles to Toronto. The season finale landed on November 29, days before Page Six reported that Archewell Productions’ inaugural head of audio had moved and “it remains unclear whether Markle will host a second season.” (There’s a new head of audio already working on further Spotify content from Archewell.)
Given all the hype around Harry and Megan and Reserve, you could be forgiven for not knowing that Netflix dropped a second Archewell production on December 31st, Live to lead, a Nelson Mandela-inspired docuseries about “seven leaders who have dedicated their lives to social justice,” including Jacinda Ardern, Gloria Steinem, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in one of her last interviews. Heart of Invictus, a Netflix documentary series about Harry’s Invictus Games contest for wounded military veterans is in the works. (No release date yet, but it’s slated to release later this year.) There are scripted and unscripted projects in development at Netflix that haven’t been announced yet, according to someone with knowledge of the deal, who told me it’s still some way off. n two years is good (Earlier this year, Netflix released the Markle cartoon series, Pearl, amid cost cutting to limit its subscriber and inventory losses.)
By signing with Netflix, arguably the highest bidder, Harry and Meghan missed other opportunities. Bob Iger‘s house) and Discovery, the latter of which may have even positioned Harry for one David Attenborough-like role. One of the possibilities being discussed, sources familiar with the talks said, was that Harry would work on documentary programs about Africa (a passion of his) and Britain. Meghan expressed an interest in lifestyle programming.
Maybe they’ll end up doing some stuff like that for Netflix now that they’re on the other side of their complaint rodeo, which, like it or not, must have been a cathartic exercise. Harry mentioned another motivating factor during the Oprah interview two years ago: “At the time during COVID, a friend’s suggestion was, ‘What about streamers?’ And we hadn’t thought about it. There were all sorts of different options and from my perspective I just needed enough money to pay security to keep my family safe.” (Life was starting to look scary without the support of the royal security apparatus.)
This begs the question of whether Harry and Meghan are even committed to building a long-term media company after their initial contracts with Netflix and Spotify expire (they still have all that philanthropy to deal with). is whether they can score another hit to match their Netflix debut.
One of the well-informed executives I spoke to speculated, “Here they may have a chance: It’s not inconceivable that someone like Oprah or Tyler Perry– which we now know, thanks to the docuseries, is one of their good friends – “that one of these people brings them something and says, I’m going to executive produce this, and you’re going to executive produce this, and we’re going to get such and such to write it. They’re motivated at Netflix to make that work. So you have a dynamic that can probably drive momentum, but it’s tough. One of my other sources similarly commented, “I’m sure they’re having meetings about what the next project is going to be. While it’s very popular to complain about Harry and Meghan right now, Hollywood can’t resist anything that has commercial value.”
For an additional perspective, I called someone who is not from the entertainment world, but is very familiar with royal media relations: “There is certainly an opinion that unlike, say, the Obamas, they don’t really have a big backstory beyond being royal, nor do they have a particularly illustrious list of achievements to their credit,” said this person. “there’s probably a lot more for them to do.”