Meghan Markle and Prince Harry could face pressure from Netflix bosses to ‘deliver more original damnation of the Royal Family’ to justify their deal after her animated TV series was axed, royal experts claimed today.
Meghan had teamed up with Sir Elton John’s husband David Furnish to create the show, titled Pearl, about a ’12-year-old heroine who finds inspiration in influential women from history’. It was due to be released as part of the Sussexes’ lucrative agreement with the US streaming giant, said to be worth up to $100million (£80million).
But Netflix has now confirmed that the feminist cartoon is no longer in production as executives re-evaluate projects following the revelation last month that it lost 200,000 subscribers in the first three months of the year.
Pearl is one of a string of programmes cancelled by California-based Netflix in recent days, with two other children’s animated shows in production also cut – those being Dino ‘Daycare’ and ‘Boons and Curses’.
Netflix is also considering changes which could include a clampdown on password sharing and a low-cost subscription supported by advertising. It currently costs between £6.99 and £15.99 a month for UK viewers.
And royal author Tom Bower told MailOnline today that the Duke and Duchess could now come under more pressure to produce further original content related to the Royal Family in an effort to rebuild Netflix’s subscriber numbers, with the firm already predicting that it will lose another two million accounts between now and June.
He said: ‘Brand Markle is struggling after Netflix’s decision. The celebrity Duchess has shown limited talent for original entertainment. Her children’s book On the Bench flopped and her voiceover for a Disney film was mocked.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attend day two of the Invictus Games at Zuiderpark in The Hague, Netherlands, on April 17
‘It was hard to imagine what she offered Netflix in the Pearl film. All she can offer is her ‘fame’ but her critics would say it’s her notoriety. Now, to meet her financial needs, she’ll be under pressure from Netflix to deliver more original damnation of the Royal Family.
‘Victimhood is still lucrative but it’s a short term fix for her and Harry. They’ll both run out of steam and credibility soon and further cancellations by Netflix and others will follow.’
Prince Harry plays polo in Californian sunshine
By Dominique Hines for the Daily Mail
He might have turned his back on Britain, but Prince Harry is still committed to one of its most traditional sports.
The Duke of Sussex was in his element as he played a friendly game of polo with his old friend Nacho Figueras on Saturday. Harry, 37, grew up playing the game with his older brother Prince William, 39.
The Duke of Sussex was in his element as he played a friendly game of polo with his old friend Nacho Figueras on Saturday
And he showed that he still has a keen interest since moving to the US, playing with professional polo player and face of Ralph Lauren Figueras at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club for the annual Harry East Memorial Tournament.
The club is not far from Montecito, where Harry and his wife Meghan live with their two children, Archie, who turns three on Friday, and Lilibet, who is ten months old.
Taking to Instagram, Figueras posted a snap of the reunion and said: ‘Thrilled to be riding alongside my friend, Prince Harry… We’ve ridden together many times over the years and now we’re both parents, it’s extra special to be able to spend this time together.’
Figueras was among the guests at Harry and Meghan’s wedding in May 2018. He is an ambassador for Sentebale, an organisation founded by the prince which is dedicated to helping children and young people who or whose families suffer with HIV and Aids in Lesotho, South Africa.
The Netflix deal had already been met with criticism by some commentators who have accused the couple of cashing in on their royal links, despite Harry reportedly telling the Queen that he would not do this.
Meghan announced the Pearl project, which was a deal between the streaming service and the media arm of the Sussexes’ organisation Archewell, in July last year.
In a statement at the time, she said: ‘Like many girls her age, our heroine Pearl is on a journey of self-discovery as she tries to overcome life’s daily challenges.
‘I’m thrilled that Archewell Productions, partnered with the powerhouse platform of Netflix, and these incredible producers, will together bring you this new animated series, which celebrates extraordinary women throughout history.’
Harry and Meghan will no doubt be reeling from the setback after speaking of how ‘eager’ the duchess was to bring the ‘special series to light’ with Mr Furnish.
Pearl was due to be the couple’s second Netflix release. Their first, Heart Of Invictus – a docuseries about the Invictus Games for veterans set up by Harry – is due out soon.
And one royal expert, Richard Fitzwilliams, told MailOnline today: ‘The serious financial situation for Netflix, which has seen its shares plummet and which has announced radical changes to its content, is reflected in the decision to cancel Meghan’s animated TV series Pearl. This will be a blow to the Sussexes and the question obviously is, what do Netflix want from the royal couple now?
‘Harry’s Heart of Invictus series will be due out soon, but the circa $100million deal with a company is huge and they will need a return on their investment.
‘The company that boasted a deal with the Sussexes and the success of The Crown is now being forced to make drastic cutbacks and changes to its output.
‘It may well pressurise the Sussexes, who have an internationally known brand, to produce more, quickly. Harry’s military experience might be tapped – he has after all served two terms in Afghanistan.
‘Meghan’s experience as a thespian is another possibility – this was her life before she married Harry. It isn’t possible at the moment to see how they could acquire royal programmes with input from the Sussexes.’
Last year, Meghan, 40, and Harry, 37, released their first podcast under their Archewell Audio production strand, following a deal with Spotify which was said to be worth £18million.
The couple, who have a son Archie, two, and ten-month-old Lilibet, had said they were ‘using podcasting to drive powerful conversations that inspire, challenge and educate’.
Meghan previously said: ‘We created Archewell Audio to make sure that we can elevate voices that maybe aren’t being heard.’
Harry and Meghan are accompanied by a film crew as they meet athletes and supporters at the Invictus Games on April 17
Royal author Tom Bower (left) and commentator Richard Fitzwilliams (right) have spoken about the latest on the Netflix deal
‘The biggest part of this is trying to create this community where you can share,’ Harry added. ‘We’d encourage everybody else to then share their own vulnerabilities within that safe space.’
Netflix price hikes in UK
May 2014: Netflix announced an increase in its monthly fee for streaming movies and television shows from £5.99 to £6.99. The price hike was immediate for new subscribers but was delayed for two years for its existing members. But Netflix allowed subscribers to keep paying £5.99 a month if they opt for a lower-resolution ‘SD’ quality service.
May 2016: Netflix raises its monthly price for UK basic users from £5.99 to £7.49 a month. A similar price change took place for US customers, who saw their subscription fee increase by $2 (around £1.40 at the time). Anyone who signed up to Netflix when it launched in Britain would have received the standard package for £5.99 per month. But in an email to subscribers Netflix wrote: ‘When we raised prices for new Netflix members in 2014, we kept your price the same for two years. Your special pricing is now ending and your new price will be £7.49 per month.’
October 2017: The company raised prices in both the UK and US for the first time in two years. The standard package price increase by 50p to £7.99 per month. The premium package jumped to £9.99 a month, an increase of £1. Netflix said at the time that the price change reflected the additional content added to its service.
May 2019: Netflix confirms that British customers will see the price of the standard tarriff increase from £7.99 to £8.99. The premium tarriff was also bumped up by £2 to £11.99.
January 2021: Netflix hikes subscription fees for UK users as the country entered its third lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. The standard package – which allows two screens to access an account, as well as HD – was raised by £1 per month, from £8.99 to £9.99. The premium package – providing four-screen access per account and Ultra HD – is bumped up by £2, from £11.99 to £13.99. The basic package stayed the same price.
March 2022: Netflix increases prices for the second time in just over a year. The basic and standard plan go up by £1 a month to £6.99 and £10.99 respectively, while the premium tier goes from £13.99 to £15.99.
Today, Mr Fitzwilliams also pointed out that it was announced in October 2020 that that the Sussexes had signed up with the prestigious Harry Walker Speaking Agency based in New York, which looks after the Obamas and the Clintons, in October 2020, but ‘they do not appear to have given speeches on this lucrative circuit’.
He continued: ‘They have only produced an undistinguished podcast for Spotify so far though more is promised. That leaves Harry’s memoir due out later in the year and it’s likely contents.
‘We don’t know what it will contain, or whether it might be postponed in deference to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. If it is to be serialised, it will need headlines and these must obviously attract readers and only the sensational can do that.
‘The Sussexes’ presence at the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations is not yet confirmed and there is only a month to go. There were reports that Harry’s security concerns on visiting Britain had been solved. However there is much in the above train of events to give considerable cause for concern at the Palace.’
Meghan and Harry’s explosive tell-all TV special with Oprah Winfrey made headlines around the world last year. The interview was watched by an estimated 50million viewers worldwide.
Netflix said in a statement that dropping several projects, including Meghan’s, was part of strategic decisions on production of animated series.
Netflix also decided not to move forward with the two animated children’s series ‘Dino Daycare’ and ‘Boons and Curses.’
The decision to cancel these shows comes after Netflix reported a loss of 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter, falling well short of its forecast of adding 2.5 million.
Netflix has stumbled in the face of increased competition from the likes of Disney, Amazon Prime and the reopening of cinemas.
The US firm has seen its share value cut in half over the past six months as investors have grown increasingly concerned by the change in fortunes.
Netflix said Archewell Productions remains a valued partner and they are continuing to work together on a number of projects, including Heart Of Invictus.
The show follows people competing at the Invictus Games, and a camera crew was seen close to Harry and Meghan during their time at the event in The Hague, Netherlands, last month.
Last year, Netflix extended a deal for animation films with Comcast subsidiary Universal Pictures, a move that was expected to help Netflix hold on to child viewers.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex with Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London on June 26, 2018
Netflix (whose headquarters in Los Gatos, California, are pictured) lost 200,000 users over the first three months of 2022
The PA News Agency reported that it is understood Netflix has decided not to move forward with development on several projects, one of which is Pearl, adding that is believed to be not uncommon for development.
Netflix said it would continue to work on projects with Archewell, including Heart of Invictus. Archewell Productions, the company formed by Meghan and Harry, has not yet commented on the decision.
According to the Archewell website, Archewell Productions was created by Harry and Meghan ‘to produce programming that informs, elevates and inspires’.
The website – which says Archewell Productions will ‘utilise the power of storytelling to embrace our shared humanity and duty to truth through a compassionate lens’ – lists Heart Of Invictus and Pearl as the two ‘exciting projects’ it has announced.