DAN WOOTTON: Signing Harry and Meghan was Netflix's biggest mistake
DAN WOOTTON: Breaking the bank to sign the King and Queen of Woke Harry and Meghan is the biggest mistake in Netflix history – viewers have zero interest in paying to hear the Sussexes preach
What’s that I hear?
I think it’s the howls of rage and fury emanating from a Montecito mansion in the hours after Meghan Markle had the crushing realisation that pretending to be a Hollywood ‘Duchess’ means nothing in the cutthroat world of American TV.
Netflix, which just 14 months ago at the height of the pandemic subscriber boom, employed the Sussexes in an unprecedented exclusive telly deal worth tens of millions, has had a crushing realisation of its own: Viewers of the once-great streaming platform aren’t going to keep paying to be force fed a succession of painfully PC dramas about pregnant men, series campaigning for us to stop eating meat and fish, and documentaries telling white people how we’re racist.
The ‘woke mind virus’ that Elon Musk believes is spreading through Netflix like a plague has seen its subscriber numbers plummet, causing a crash in the streaming giant’s stock price and a major crisis in confidence.
‘Mark my words, Netflix’s announcement spells deep trouble for the Sussexes’ golden handcuffs deals with Hollywood companies, who, behind the glossy PR statements, are paying for product that will sell’ (Pictured: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex hug Team United Kingdom competitor Lisa Johnston at the Invictus Games)
‘Netflix is no longer prepared to treat even its British Royal Family staff members with kid gloves’ (Pictured: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex attend day two of the Invictus Games)
So first to go in the sweeping cuts set to hit the company are the sorts of telly vanity projects that Netflix thought gave them kudos in liberal luvvie circles, but won’t end up resulting in shows that anyone wants to subscribe to watch.
That includes Pearl, the first major series announced from Harry and Meghan’s megabucks deal, with Elton John’s husband David Furnish – a BFF best known for providing the couple with carbon-guzzling private jets at a moment’s notice – drafted in to produce alongside their own production company Archewell.
It was meant to be an animated series starring a campaigning 12-year-old girl, based on the precocious Meghan as a child, who wrote to Procter & Gamble about a sexist ad, weaving in the stories of ‘extraordinary women throughout history’.
So far, so woke.
Last June, when the deal was announced, Meghan gushed: ‘Like many girls her age, our heroine Pearl is on a journey of self-discovery as she tries to overcome life’s daily challenges. David Furnish and I have been eager to bring this special series to light, and I am delighted we are able to announce it today.’
But here’s the problem with putting a preening princess with zero executive experience at the heart of the creative decision-making process: She hasn’t the faintest idea how to make a compelling drama series.
Pearl was shaping up to be worthy tosh – and Netflix is no longer prepared to treat even its British Royal Family staff members with kid gloves.
Mark my words, yesterday’s announcement spells deep trouble for the Sussexes golden handcuffs deals with Hollywood companies, who, behind the glossy PR statements, are paying for product that will sell.
Prince Harry playing for the Los Padres team at Santa Barbara Polo Club
So far, the audio streaming company Spotify has only one measly 33-minute holiday message from Harry and Meghan in December 2020, despite a deal also worth tens of millions.
Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes Harry and Meghan have caused Spotify executives a world of pain as they publicly spoke up to demand the company take action following the pathetic woke attempt to silence their superstar podcaster Joe Rogan.
The recently announced Meghan podcast Archetypes, which will finally be made available this summer, sounds dull as ditchwater, with the former Suits actress promising to ‘speak with historians and experts’ to uncover the origin of ‘labels that try to hold women back’.
Similarly, the forthcoming Archewell documentary for Netflix about the Invictus Games is unquestionably public service television, but the type of thing the BBC should be making.
Staff at Netflix are well aware that the only reason Heart of Invictus will attract a global audience is by providing a glimpse into the not so private lives of Harry and Meghan.
That’s why the shameless couple trudged from the US for the first time since Megxit to the UK to visit the Queen together, with Netflix cameras in tow.
As much as both sides will publicly try to deny it, there’s a dawning realisation that viewers and listeners have little interest in paying for preaching from Harry and Meghan.
After all, even fans of the couple can get that for free from their various speeches, interviews and website posts.
What they want is dirt, a Kardashian-style insight into life as an exiled member of the Royal Family at war with their blood relatives.
‘The “woke mind virus” that Elon Musk believes is spreading through Netflix like a plague has seen its subscriber numbers plummet, causing a crash in the streaming giant’s stock price and a major crisis in confidence’
That clash in aims was always mightily predictable and one of the warnings provided by the couple’s royal advisers as they first proposed a half in/half out model that would allow the couple to make money while continuing to represent the Royal Family.
In reality, such an arrangement was a pipe dream as the companies will demand compelling exclusive content, to hell with royal convention.
The pressure is now on Harry and Meghan to present Netflix with TV shows that will genuinely move the dial, with access to their lives likely to be top of the company’s wish list.
As ever, there was an arrogance with the way Harry and Meghan launched their US tour of royal hatred and lies – they didn’t look after their paymasters.
Harry’s first interview was with James Corden of CBS.
Then there was the couple’s bombshell Oprah special, which resulted in record ratings, but again ended up on CBS.
Even Harry’s most recent tell-all, where he spilled more secrets about the Queen and deepened his family rift by refusing to even mention Prince Charles and William, ended up on NBC.
Even the most relaxed Netflix executive would be raging by this point: When are we going to get our pound of flesh?
The couple were lucky that at the time they were first on the market post-Megxit, Hollywood was awash with streaming money as the international Covid lockdowns resulted in unprecedented viewing numbers.
But as the swift closure of the news service CNN+ after just three weeks shows, a flavour of brutality is now very much part of the streaming wars as the competition becomes intense.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Harry and Meghan are soon faced with a stark choice: Provide us with a juicy show about your lives and the Royal Family or we’re not going to renew your deal.
That’s Hollywood, darling.
You can pretend to be royal all you want, but when you’ve sold out to an entertainment giant, there’s only so long you can resist if you want to keep pocketing the massive cheques.
Netflix is discovering the brutal reality of the truism ‘go woke, go broke’.
Breaking the bank to sign the King and Queen of Woke Harry and Meghan could well end up the biggest mistake in their history.
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