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Of all the many startling elements of the Sussex relaunch this week — from the use of Meghan’s coat of arms to its timing as the King battles cancer — perhaps the most surprising has yet to be remarked on.

It is this: at no point on any part of their new website, Sussex.com, is there a single mention of the word ‘Netflix’.

This includes the section devoted to Archewell Productions, where you will find the following resumé: ‘Founded in 2020 by Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, our company is dedicated to illuminating thought-provoking and diverse narratives that underscore our common humanity and celebrate community — through scripted and non-scripted TV, film, documentaries and podcasting.’

And that’s it.

To jog memories, their estimated $100 million (£80 million) deal with the streaming giant was their first (big) step into the world of commerce after ‘Megxit’, and when it was signed in September 2020 all involved said how delighted they were with the ‘multi-year’ deal.

ALISON BOSHOFF: Is Netflix planning to pull the plug on Harry and Meghan – and if it does how WILL they fund their lavish lifestyle?

Luxury: Harry and Meghan in Vancouver, Canada, this week

The Duchess of Sussex in Whistler, Canada

The Duchess of Sussex in Whistler, Canada 

‘Our focus will be on creating content that informs but also gives hope,’ the couple — whose son Archie was born in May 2019 — said in a statement. ‘As new parents, making inspirational family programming is also important to us.’

They added that Netflix’s ‘unprecedented reach will help us share impactful content that unlocks action’.

Netflix boss Ted Sarandos (who is actually one of their near-neighbours in a $35 million (£28 million) home in Montecito, California) said: ‘We’re incredibly proud they have chosen Netflix as their creative home and are excited about telling stories with them that can help build resilience and increase understanding for audiences everywhere.’

He had seen off competition from Disney, NBCUniversal and Apple to sign up the couple, who had only arrived in California six months previously, just as the pandemic hit.

But for all the fine words about the intention to make a social impact, Harry later remarked in his television interview with Oprah Winfrey that he had been forced to make the Netflix deal because of pressing financial need.

As he put it: ‘My family literally cut me off financially.’ He added: ‘I’ve got what my mum left me, and without that we would not have been able to do this.’ (‘This’ being the move to a mansion in Montecito).

So what is going on with the media deal which is meant to be funding their new life?

Perhaps surprisingly, the spectre of (relative) penury and wrangles over money loom rather large over the couple and their relationship with Netflix — and cast a fascinating light on the question of what they are going to do next.

I’m told, by well-placed sources with knowledge of the deal, that the association has been disappointing all round, with Harry and Meghan drawing a relatively meagre amount from the streamer — thought to amount to as little as $20 million (£16 million) for them personally, all in.

Considering the delivery of a blockbuster tell-all six-part documentary Harry & Meghan in December 2022, which was seen by 81 million households in its first three weeks, the couple could judge that $20 million isn’t much at all. Maybe we should look no further when seeking to explain the perplexing omission on the website.

What’s more, the expectation in Hollywood is that both parties will break the deal as soon as it is contractually viable, which will mean a ‘divorce’ in September this year or next.

Will the Sussexes have by then produced their romcom film based on the Carley Fortune book Meet Me At The Lake?

And will they have produced any of the documentary projects, including a Prince Harry in Africa series which has also been long in the planning? Other proposals they are trying to get off the ground include a feminist retelling of the origins of Charles Dickens’ Miss Havisham in the form of a TV drama.

Shock and awe: The couple become animated in the Harry & Meghan documentary series screened on Netflix

Shock and awe: The couple become animated in the Harry & Meghan documentary series screened on Netflix

Yet while the writers’ and actors’ strikes took out much of last year, it is notable how little the couple have actually made work for Netflix.

The head of content, Bela Bajaria, tried to put a brave face on the inactivity at an event last week. She said the couple had a number of projects in ‘very early development’ and were being helped by Netflix’s head of unscripted content, Brandon Riegg.

‘They actually have, like a bunch in development,’ she said. ‘They have a movie in development, and a series that they are working on. So all early development, with a movie, a TV series and a couple of unscripted shows that they are working on with Brandon Riegg. But yeah, the movie is great.’

Some might argue that’s faint praise.

Meanwhile, Meghan told reporters at a Variety event earlier this year: ‘We have so many exciting things on the slate. I can’t wait until we can announce them.’

However, a source with knowledge of the situation says that essentially the Netflix deal is a dead duck.

‘The whole arrangement was basically the trade-off for Netflix getting the Harry & Meghan documentary. It was never the huge payday that the Press reported. The $100 million number was always a newspaper figure. 

It’s thought they got a small fraction of that number up front, and everything from there on is largely contingent on performance. The fact is that the company [Archewell] has been relatively inactive so far.’

Rather than a massive lump sum, the deal consisted of a multi-year commitment from Netflix to cover the overheads of Archewell. This is said to be in the region of $3 million (£2.4 million) a year, of which the Sussexes will keep a small portion personally.

Most of that money is being spent on overheads and project development costs. Indeed, when Archewell bought the rights to make a film of Meet Me At The Lake it was reported that, quite unusually, Netflix had stumped up the $1 million (£800,000) cash rather than Archewell, reflecting the fact that the company is not swimming in funds.

By far the most lucrative element was the production fee for the Harry & Meghan documentary of around $20 million (£16 million), $15 million (£12 million) of which will have gone directly to the couple, the rest being spent on making the series.

The changing cast of characters at Archewell has not helped relations with Netflix. The source adds: ‘There’s been a lot of turbulence at executive level within Archewell, and I know for a fact that Netflix are annoyed to be advancing several millions dollars a year of overhead to a company that can’t seem to retain more than a handful of staff at a time and that has almost no day-to-day visibility around town.

‘That wasn’t what Netflix were pitched and the shaky executive base is a big part of the reason why Archewell hasn’t got much done.’

The company lost head of content Ben Browning in January 2023 after his contract expired and this January production manager Bennett Levine also walked, two years after joining. Rebecca Sananes, the head of audio, left after the Archetypes podcasts had been produced.

Harry and Meghan made a surprise appearance at the Jamaica world premiere of the Bob Marley biopic One Love earlier this year, prompting suggestions of a deal with makers Paramount

Harry and Meghan made a surprise appearance at the Jamaica world premiere of the Bob Marley biopic One Love earlier this year, prompting suggestions of a deal with makers Paramount

Bad luck has come into play, too. Netflix has pulled back on its film and TV expenditure massively over the past 12 months after it became clear that previous spending levels were not sustainable.

Hollywood is generally a much more financially sober environment, too. In addition to the actors’ and writers’ strikes and the pandemic, ‘peak TV’ is over, with fewer shows being made and at a lower price point.

The source says: ‘There is an across-the-board acknowledgement that Netflix will want to get out of, or scale down further, the deal at the earliest contractual opportunity.

‘You might say that Netflix haven’t done too badly out of the relationship, as they’ve probably only gone out of pocket to the tune of around $30 million [£24 million] or thereabouts, and they did at least get a huge hit doc out of the investment.

‘As for Harry and Meghan, it’s understood that they will have managed to keep around $15 million [£12million] just for themselves, which is not bad business. But that kind of money doesn’t last long with their lifestyle.’

The lifestyle is indeed idyllic by any standards and included the purchase of their Montecito mansion in 2020 for $14.7 million (£11.7 million), with a mortgage of $9.5 million (£7.5 million). The potential mortgage payments on such a borrowing may run to $50,000 (£39,600) a month.

Then there is their security detail, generally thought to cost somewhere north of $2 million (£1.6million) a year, plus taxes of $68,000 (£54,000) a year, staff costs of $300,000 (£238,000) a year and utilities costing up to $24,000 (£19,000) a year.

Harry’s legacy from Princess Diana is generally said to be around £7 million all in, plus a further amount from a legacy left by the Queen Mother. That won’t go far in California, so you can see how money could become a pressing concern.

Among the biggest money-spinners of all has actually been Harry’s memoir Spare. Released in January last year, it has sold around four million copies. If we are to assume a relatively modest cut for Harry of 15 per cent, that would have netted him $15 million (£12 million), give or take. He has given an unknown portion of the profits to charity.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear how much money the Sussexes made from the podcaster Spotify, for which Archewell managed to make just one 12-episode podcast, Archetypes, in three years. Their deal was cancelled in 2023.

It was said to be worth $20 million (£16 million) but again will have most likely only netted them a fraction of that amount, given the lack of content created. The Wall Street Journal reported with restraint that they ‘failed to reach the productivity benchmark’.

Spotify executive Bill Simmons famously put it more bluntly: ‘I wish I had been involved in the “Meghan and Harry leave Spotify” negotiation. The F***ing Grifters. That’s the podcast we should have launched with them.

‘I have got to get drunk one night and tell the story of the Zoom I had with Harry to try and help him with a podcast idea. It’s one of my best stories . . . F*** them. The grifters.’

Archetypes does have a new home. It was announced this week that Meghan is to venture again into podcasting for Lemonada, a small but successful female-run outfit which makes podcasts with actresses Sara Sugarman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

But looking beyond the end of the Netflix deal, a world in which Meghan has a podcast does not look like a world in which the couple maintain a house with 16 bathrooms. Logic would suggest that they brave the backlash and write more books, as the story of their fall-out with the Royal Family remains compelling. Even a cookbook, which I heard was Meghan’s preference, would be a great potential source of income.

Last summer, it was announced that Meghan had signed with Ari Emanuel, the powerhouse agent at WME. However, although she then turned up at some events with prominent WME clients, such as at Kevin Costner’s charity party, there have been no blue-chip commercial deals for her.

She was also said to be about to revive her website, The Tig, and sign an endorsement deal with the fashion house Dior. Neither has yet happened. Some believe that WME are letting her go, again because of the problem of how to turn her megawatt profile into some kind of tangible product. 

They are said to have played ‘no part’ in the Sussex.com rebrand, which does not augur well. Inquiries about her status there go unanswered.

There was the surprise appearance of the couple at the Jamaica world premiere of the Bob Marley biopic One Love earlier this year, prompting suggestions of a deal with makers Paramount, especially as they travelled there by private jet with the company’s boss Brian Robbins.

But that would be a most unlikely destination for them.

At present, Paramount is being sold, so a new head is almost an inevitability, and you would expect that whoever comes in will want to make their own mark.

Interestingly, that private jet ride may be another indication that money is an issue.

They travelled with oil billionaire Michael Herd on his ‘PJ’ to see Katy Perry in Vegas in November and their outing from Santa Barbara to Vancouver for the Invictus events was also by private jet and at someone else’s expense, according to Page Six in the U.S.

‘It’s always other people’s money,’ a source told the publication. But how to keep it coming?



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