The New York Times reported today that Netflix has signed a multiyear deal with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s newly formed but as yet unnamed production company. No financials have been released but… I’m guessing this will take care of the new mortgage?
As part of the deal, the Sussexes will be producing “documentaries, docu-series, feature films, scripted shows and children’s programming” and the NYT notes that both may appear but that there’s no indication that Meghan will return to acting.
Harry and Meghan said in a statement about the deal that:
"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. 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 [Sarandos] and the team at Netflix whose unprecedented reach will help us share impactful content that unlocks action."
Earlier this month, Variety reported that Harry and Meghan were pitching media companies, including the major streamers and NBCUniversal. At the time, there was no indication that the Sussexes had formed a prodco, but here’s what I posted:
“If they’re pitching already, I wonder if that means they’ve already set up a production company. People pitch all the time and don’t necessarily have a production company and often do it through their agents but then again, Harry and Meghan aren’t screenwriters. And pitching from that position doesn’t seem like it would fit their brand. The goal these days is to be able to generate content in-house.
When it first announced that Harry and Meghan were moving to LA permanently and building connections, one of the first comparisons was to the Obamas who have a prodco, Higher Ground, and a deal with Netflix. Higher Ground’s first film, American Factory, just won the Oscar for Best Documentary. Higher Ground is not just the Obamas though – there’s an entire team of content developers and creatives working alongside them who have established experience in the industry. If the Sussexes are pitching then, does that mean that we’ll be hearing soon about whatever version of their prodco they may have been building behind the scenes? Is an Obama-Sussex coproduction in our future?!”
The reason why the Obamas have been so successful with Higher Ground of the gate is because they went out and secured talent. Priya Swaminathan and Tonia Davis are co-heads of Higher Ground alongside the Obamas and both have years of experience in production with Annapurna and Disney respectively. That’s the leadership experience that the Obamas have brought to their post-White House endeavors: leading is also about team-building and recruiting the right people to work on the right projects. This will be the work of the Sussexes if they hope to see the same results. And that’s what to keep an eye on: who will the Sussexes be working with as they become content creators?
For now though, it’s a big win. Six months after stepping down as senior members of the British royal family and moving to Los Angeles (via Vancouver Island), they’ve laid a foundation for what their future will be outside of the royal system. The Sussexes are aiming to be storytellers, free from the constraints of the monarchy and its archaic policies and procedures. They’ve left a traditional institution and are forming a relationship with a modern one in Netflix.
In a way, Netflix is its own commonwealth, operating in almost 200 countries, with hundreds of millions of users and a much more flexible algorithm. Also, you know what they say all say about Netflix, right? They don’t give too many notes.