They came to Southern California seeking a fresh start and it was never really much of a mystery how they might do it.
After all, there are only so many ways that international celebrities can earn a crust in these sunny, showbusiness-fixated climes, and so the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – a former actress, let’s not forget – were always going to be casting an appreciative eye at what Hollywood had to offer.
And yesterday, it appeared that the offer had found royal favour, after the couple had signed a ‘megawatt’ deal with the online streaming giant Netflix.
The agreement is so similar to that which Netflix signed two years ago with another A-list celebrity couple – Barack and Michelle Obama – that chief executive Ted Sarandos didn’t bother to supply new quotes for the press release.
Yesterday, it appeared that the offer had found royal favour, after the couple (pictured) had signed a ‘megawatt’ deal with the online streaming giant Netflix
Mr Sarandos yesterday gushed that he was ‘incredibly proud that they have chosen to make Netflix their home’ – almost word for word what he said of the Obamas when he bought a share in their international super-celebrity in 2018.
The Obamas have previously denied giving advice to their friends the Sussexes. But it is not impossible that the former president and first lady would have given them some pointers on how to ‘monetise their brand’ with projects that won’t antagonise their fans by appearing too commercial.
Indeed, the duke and duchess have set up an as yet unnamed production company and signed a multi-year deal with Netflix to make documentaries, feature films, scripted TV shows and children’s programmes. This is precisely the spread of programmes that the Obamas agreed to make to promote their ‘passion projects’.
And Harry and Meghan’s carefully worded statements about the sort of programmes they intend to make also sounded familiar.
Barack and Michelle Obama (pictured together) signed a deal in 2018 to make documentaries for $50million
‘We hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world,’ said Mr Obama.
Harry and Meghan are promising that ‘our focus will be on creating content that informs but also gives hope’ and, as new parents, ‘making inspirational family programming is also important to us’.
And for both the Obamas and the Sussexes, there was absolutely no official word on the money involved.
However, what is known of other Netflix deals provides some guidance.
Shonda Rhimes, creator of the long-running hit TV show Grey’s Anatomy, signed a deal estimated to be worth $150million over five years in 2017, while Ryan Murphy – creator of Glee and American Horror Story – agreed a five-year deal worth a reported $300million in 2018.
Such sums don’t make yesterday’s rumours that the Sussex deal is worth $100million seem at all far-fetched.
Game of Thrones (pictured) creators David Benioff and DB Weiss joined Netflix last year for $200million
Both Amazon and Facebook were said to have shown interest in collaborating with the pair, but Netflix – worth around $187billion and the world’s most valuable entertainment company with 193 million subscribers – has the deepest pockets in Tinseltown. The company has also been keen on making socially-aware films and programmes for some years.
Other details of the deal offer few surprises. While former Suits actress Meghan has reportedly said she has no intention of returning to acting, it’s no shock to hear that she and her less camera-savvy husband may appear in the documentaries they make.
Given that their chief appeal would be on-screen as celebrity presenters, one imagines Netflix might even have insisted that be part of the deal.
Ryan Murphy – creator of Glee (pictured) and American Horror Story – agreed a five-year deal worth a reported $300million in 2018
Some might wonder about the wisdom of paying a huge sum to two untested, programme-makers but this deal –as with the Obamas – is hardly about ratings. It is about sheer star power as Netflix faces growing competition from newer ventures such as Disney +, Peacock, Hulu, HBO and Amazon Prime.
And there’s another reason why a link-up with the royal couple may make particular sense. Netflix has already had global success with its acclaimed drama series The Crown. The lavish show, which tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, will release its eagerly awaited fourth season in November.
It has notched up endless awards and drawn the sort of upmarket viewers to Netflix who might have otherwise have ignored the streaming service.
But it was a considerable risk – the first ten-part season was the most expensive drama produced by Netflix, costing at least £100million.
Might Netflix executives have had it in the back of their minds that another connection with the Royal Family might not go amiss?
As for what the Sussexes will get out of the deal, it might not just be all about money – although with a new £11million home in Santa Barbara to maintain and their security to fund, it’s obviously a key consideration. The Obamas reportedly saw their Netflix agreement as a way of maintaining their high public profile after leaving office – an aim that will surely also strike a chord with the duke and duchess who have left the royal fold.
There is also big money – $150million – for Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy (pictured)
Still lionised by many in the US, on the back of the Netflix deal and lucrative paid-speaking engagements the Obamas have quietly become multimillionaires and been able to buy multi-million dollar homes in Washington DC, Chicago, Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
As to the content of what Team Sussex might produce, again looking to the Obamas is instructive. Last year, their production company, Higher Ground, unveiled seven productions. These include American Factory, a documentary about the culture clash at a Chinese-owned factory in Ohio, and Bloom which is a drama series set in post-war New York exploring the ‘barriers faced by women and by people of colour in an era marked by hurdles but also tremendous progress’.
Their production company will also be creating a film adaptation of a biography about slavery abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
None sound like they will set new viewing records but they’re just the sort of laudable fare that the Sussexes might want to pursue. Stay tuned.