Prince Harry, Meghan Markle’s new Netflix show Live to Lead reveals huge problem

Here are just a few things that I think we can confidently say that King Charles and Queen Camilla won’t be doing on New Year’s Eve: Starting a TikTok account about their Jack Russells, letting Princess Anne near the cooking sherry too early in the piece, or watching Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s latest Netflix project, Live to Lead.

After two years of announcing content deals followed by tumbleweeds, it’s been a comparatively breakneck five months for the duke and duchess, with the release of her first Spotify podcast, the tepidly-received Archetypes, two Netflix shows and then, in the early new year, Harry’s memoir, Spare. (It’s a Sussex-nami of content!)

With 2023 right around the corner, the creative engines of Montecito look to be firing on all cylinders; brains whirring, Macbook Pro keyboards clacking, as the Sussexes finally begin to unveil the content the world has long been promised!

But Live to Lead’s release also means something else – that once Harry’s autobiography is published on January 10, the couple’s slate of upcoming, confirmed projects consists of … one doco about the Invictus Games, the initiative for wounded and serving veterans the duke started when he was a working member of the royal family.

That’s it.

Aside from Heart of Invictus and Lead, the Sussexes have no other projects slated with the streaming behemoth.

So too, Spotify has not announced a second series of Archetypes or any upcoming series from Harry or some new offering from the duo.

In 2021 Meghan published a children’s book called The Bench, but no second book, children’s or otherwise, has been announced in the 18 months since then.

Maybe this is a lull and there are multiple, thrilling series bubbling away in the content laboratories of Archewell, but so far, there is no indication of this.

At first glance, now that we have gotten a good taste of what the couple can turn out with a (I’m guessing) fulsome staff, the couples’ careers appear shiny and bright. But look a little closer and the picture becomes less rosy.

The obvious and biggest place to start here is their Netflix deal, a reported $140 million contract that we were told back in 2020 would see the duo make “content that informs but also gives hope”. (Hard to see much that was informative or hopeful in Harry & Meghan for the Windsors …)

Their first offering, their eponymous six-part ‘documentary’, has been a huge coup for the streamer, generating the sort of global cacophony that it would usually take an eight-figure marketing budget to garner. Sure, most of the duke and duchesses’ revelations were re-runs, but no matter, two members of the King’s family plumbing their deep reservoirs of hurt and anger while the cameras rolled has proven to be a hit.

And we know because the company, after the release of the first ‘volume’, promptly set about informing the world that more than 28 million households had tuned in to watch some of the first three episodes of the series. Then came the second lot of episodes, the ones that really got to the meaty part of their story and since then, it’s been crickets.

While the series remains the most viewed TV show in the UK, and number two in Australia and the US, it’s curious that Netflix is not out there again, proudly banging on about how many millions of people globally are willing to watch a duke and duchess turn family hostility into TV programming.

There are other worrying auguries too. The reviews for Harry & Meghan were decidedly mixed, even from publications like Variety which only recently featured her on its cover (“Netflix’s ‘Harry & Meghan’ Rehashes the Royal-Family Drama, One More Time”).

As of the time of writing, the show has a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 17 per cent.

If critics and the viewers are less-than-enamoured with this, their supposedly most sensational output, then it remains to be seen just how attractive of a commercial prospect they are.

Still! There is serious momentum around the duke and duchess right now, so how has Netflix capitalised on this? By announcing Live to Lead, whose unveiling has been decidedly hitch-prone.

Questions nearly immediately arose about the Sussexes’ involvement in the project given the series includes former US Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg who died in September 2020, the same month that the Sussexes announced their Netflix deal.

Then, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who features in Lead, put out a statement of her own saying that she had interviewed in late 2019 and had not had “direct contact with the Sussexes”.

(Basically, it looks like they might have just shot pieces to camera which were wedged into this production, and hey presto, a new Sussex show! Still, at least it’s in perfect line with what they promised to make way back when.)

Then there’s the timing, New Year’s Eve. It’s a decidedly odd day to put out the Sussexes’ next project with the company, right on the very same day that most of the world is busy popping champagne corks and trying to defrost the party sausage rolls.

What is yet to be seen is if Harry and Meghan can churn out successful programming that is not predicated on them hawking royal tales of woe. Will anyone want to watch, listen or read what they make if they are not dishing the dirt on the monarchy? Does anyone care what they have to say (aside from their troop of ardent supporters) if they are not milking their palace trauma?

As content creators in their own right, they are still an unproven commercial quantity.

Before Christmas, a source told the Telegraph of the duke and duchess: “They are looking forward to people being interested in what they’re doing beyond all the drama.”

But … will people pay their TV shows or podcasts or books the sort of attention and in the numbers required to sustain big deals if they are not taking potshots at the Palace?

Julia Alexander of Parrot Analytics, a firm that tracks global audience demand, wrote this month after volume one was released: “It’s been a hard push for the Obamas to find mainstream hits outside of early documentary fare — who’s to say it’s going to be any easier for the Sussexes?”

Take away their titles, take away their palace ties, take away their claims of royal racism and a callous indifference to their suffering, and is what is left that attractive a proposition to, say, Netflix?

Bigger picture, the Sussexes would seem to be in something of a bind. Their entire public image and business output too have thus far been founded on their royal refugee status, understandable given it was their most valuable commodity when they arrived in the US and suddenly found the royal money teet had gone dry, including having to pay for their security.

(It seemingly had not occurred to them that British taxpayers would not be chuffed about paying to protect two people who had no official status and lived 8500km away from London.) They needed money; Netflix had a voracious appetite for content – it seemed to be a match made in producing heaven.

Except more than two years on, it feels a bit like Harry and Meghan have backed themselves into a brand corner and today they are not defined in the public imagination by their humanitarian work but by their willingness to pillory the royal family, at times with a large cheque attached.

It’s interesting that their reception in the US is not quite as glowing as you might imagine. Polling done in early December, but before the release of Harry & Meghan, found that 43 per cent of Americans like the duchess, compared to 52 per cent who like Kate, the Princess of Wales. Ultimately Kate has a net approval rating that is 20 points higher than Meghan. (Harry and brother Prince William are nearly neck and neck on 52 per cent approval.)

So come this New Year’s Eve, will many people be eagerly turning in for some rousing viewing starring the legendary RBG, Ardern and the incredible Greta Thunberg? Even if much of the world isn’t, even if Charles and Camilla are too intent on blending jugs of pina coladas and keeping the dogs away from the partridge pâté, here’s betting that Netflix execs will be watching the numbers, intently.

Daniela Elser is a writer and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *