Harry and Meghan’s $150m Netflix TV deal to produce woke documentaries has ‘no chance to fail’ and there is huge pressure on them to deliver a hit amid hype that could backfire, industry insiders have warned.
The Royal couple’s fans have welcomed new of the deal enthusiastically, but TV experts warn they now have to prove their right-on agenda can attract viewers if their new TV production is going to provide a long-term income.
One industry expert called the project ‘incredibly dangerous and overhyped’ and added: ‘they have got no chance to fail, they have got to succeed. If they lose they have got a lot of egg on their face.’
Both announced yesterday they had founded a production company to make documentaries, feature films, scripted shows and children’s programming and inked a deal with the streaming giant.
A statement from the pair vowed to make ‘impactful content that unlocks action’ and name-checked Netflix chief executive Ted Sarandos and spoke of the firm’s ‘unprecedented reach’
They are expected to create content including a series on ‘mental health’, an animated series about inspirational women, a nature documentary, and programmes looking at community service.
Their deal has been compared to the Obamas $65m Netflix deal which saw the former president’s production company win an Oscar with his first film American Factory.
It comes after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who recently bought a $14 million mansion in Santa Barbara on a mortgage, stepped into Hollywood after ditching royal duties in March.
But public relations expert Mark Borowski said today the couple had put a lot of pressure on themselves to succeed.
He told MailOnline: ‘An old Hollywood friend of mine once told me you can never have too big a hit. But you have got to manage expectations.
‘When you switch on the hype machine you have got to deliver. If it’s something that lets people down it’s going to backfire.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle plant flowers during an LA pre-school visit last weekend
Harry and Meghan’s new $14million home in Santa Barbara where they moved this year
‘If you pull it apart, who wouldn’t want Harry and Meghan – it’s huge publicity for Netflix.
‘But for Harry and Meghan, they just understand this media circus. They have been naïve.
‘This is a money-raising exercise. They have got this inferiority complex they are going to have to come back cap in hand to the Royal household.
‘It all sounds great, but what have you got? What names are attracted, what is the first project?
What to expect from Megflix? Harry and Meghan’s film projects in their own words
Our lives, both independent of each other, and as a couple have allowed us to understand the power of the human spirit: of courage, resilience, and the need for connection,’ they said.
Through our work with diverse communities and their environments, to shining a light on people and causes around the world, our focus will be on creating content that informs but also gives hope.
As new parents, making inspirational family programming is also important to us, as is powerful storytelling through a truthful and relatable lens.
We are pleased to work with Ted and the team at Netflix whose unprecedented reach will help us share impactful content that unlocks action
‘It’s like someone in the pub saying ‘I am going to start making productions for Netflix’.
‘This is incredibly dangerous and overhyped, they have got no chance to fail, they have got to succeed. If they lose they have got a lot of egg on their face.
‘For Harry and Meghan, this whole shooting match that they get involved with, it heaps a lot of pressure on them. They are looking for attention all the time. On this occasion I think they may have overstepped the mark.
‘The proof is obviously in the pudding. It’s going to be very difficult, hits are very hard to come by. How many Downton Abbeys, The Crowns and Ordinary Peoples are there? They are from British producers who will tell you that you have got to have a few flops to make before you get a hit.
‘This is a naïve double-act, who are living on hype.’
Public paperwork for their Archewell firm in America, gives a flavour of the topics the Sussexes are likely to focus on in their films.
Filings mention the areas of sport, mental health, as well as physical fitness, children’s programming and even cartoons.
Royal expert Ingrid Seward said: ‘This proves it’s not what you can do, it is who you are. It’s very nice for them to be able to just step into that.
‘I imagine Prince Charles will be relieved as they will be off his payroll now, and the British public will be relieved because they can pay back what they owe now on Frogmore Cottage, so it’s a win-win situation.’
Prince Edward at the launch of his production company Ardent, later closed in 2009
They will be hoping to avoid the bad publicity given to Prince Edward’s production company after he founded it in 1993.
Ardent Productions had started well with a documentary on Edward VIII’s abdication but was later branded a ‘sad joke’ by some industry insiders.
Backers pumped £2.2million into the project but when it folded in June 2009 only £40.27 was left over.
Media analyst Rich Greenfield said: ‘The total deal could be hundreds of millions of dollars.’
The Sussexes decision to work with Netflix is also a move reminiscent of former President Barack Obama and his lawyer wife Michelle.
In January, sources confirmed the couple had discussed their plans with the Obamas and wanted to mimic the way they had managed to build a successful, but dignified, life for themselves after the White House.
Steve Bognar, Michelle Obama, Julie Reichart and Barrack Obama celebrate their Netflix hit
Since leaving the White House, the Obamas have earned a small fortune by selling rights to their autobiographies and setting up their own production company, which has bagged a lucrative deal with Netflix.
A source said: ‘They have found huge commercial success without actually looking like they are getting their hands dirty, to put it bluntly, and retaining their popularity.
‘In fact it is fair to say that their star has soared since leaving the White House, particularly Michelle’s, and this is something Meghan admires very, very much.’
After stepping down as senior royals, Meghan and Harry signed with New York-based Harry Walker Agency in June, which represents the Obamas and the Clintons.
Meghan has made several appearances as a speaker at various online summits, however it is understood that she did not receive payment for these engagements.
Tom Harrington, a broadcast industry expert at Enders Analysis said ‘The Sussexes may imagine they will dictate the shows they want to make but Netflix will have a firm hand on the tiller.
A senior industry source said that Meghan would ‘believe she’s getting full creative control’ but that the executive producer’s credits she was likely to receive were ‘thrown around like confetti’.
‘TV networks, Netflix included, don’t let the lunatics run the asylum,’ the source said. ‘Meghan will no doubt want to cast herself as Mother Teresa but that’s not how it’s going to pan out.’
Obamas’ Netflix and thrill projects
This documentary, which won an Oscar, tells the story of a Chinese billionaire who opened a factory in a former General Motors plant and hired 2,000 people. It was billed as ‘early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America’.
A series looking at women and people of colour in New York after World War II, described as looking at an era ‘marked by hurdles but also tremendous progress’.
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom
This documentary is based on the biography of the same name written by David W. Blight. Frederick was an escaped slave who became a prominent activist, author and public speaker.
This series will be based on a New York Times feature of the same name which tells the stories of people whose deaths have been unnoticed by the media.
A film exploring the origins and growth of the disability rights movement
Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents
A series for pre-school children said to take them and their families ‘around the globe on an adventure that tells us the story of our food’.