Royal experts mock Harry and Meghan's plans for Dickens show

‘Worthy content has to be good…it’s not just about broadcasting to their bubble’: PR experts say Sussexes appear ‘far away from audience tastes’ with ‘underwhelmed’ execs rejecting their ideas – as couple plan Great Expectations inspired Netflix show

Meghan and Harry’s lack of success with Netflix and Spotify shows their ‘worthy’ content is solely ‘broadcasting to their bubble’ and ‘far away from audience tastes’, a PR expert said today – as they plan a new show inspired by Great Expectations. 

News of the Charles Dickens remake came in a damning US newspaper article which summed up the Sussexes’ dealings with Netflix as ‘big ideas, subpar execution’ and quoted executives of the streaming giant and Spotify saying they were ‘underwhelmed’ by the pair’s performance. 

Since quitting their royal duties in 2020, the couple have been focusing on building a career in streaming and podcasting.

But they received a blow earlier this month when Spotify said it was terminating Meghan’s podcast, Archetypes. Meanwhile, Netflix is reportedly planning to can their deal with the Sussexes when it expires in 2025 – after rejecting several of their ideas for shows. 

In a bid to revive their flagging fortunes, Harry and Meghan are developing a Netflix show called ‘Bad Manners’, based on a feminist version of Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations – according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Royal experts have raised questions about a reported plan by Harry and Meghan to reimagine Great Expectations 

The mooted show will introduce a feminist version of Miss Havisham (pictured here being played by Olivia Coleman in a recent adaptation) 

PR expert Mark Borkowski said their lack of success so far showed they were failing to produce shows that interest the public. 

He told MailOnline: ‘Studio execs are subject to constant pitches ideas that have to good. It shows they might be too far away from their audience tastes. Worthy content has to be good it’s not about broadcasting to their bubble.’

Meanwhile, royal author Richard Fitzwilliams told MailOnline: ‘It is one thing for Meghan to narrate Elephant for Disney, another to take on Dickens! 

‘Meghan’s animated series, Pearl, was cancelled by Netflix and Spotify were far from pleased with Archetypes. Harry’s documentary, Heart of Invictus is reportedly due out soon – but it’s reasonable to ask why have they done so little despite their high profile and expectations that their brand would have huge international appeal. 

‘Harry’s judgement about what to include in his memoir, Spare, was badly flawed too. Surely Meghan’s new agent is able to arrange more work for them? Hollywood dislikes failure. Many are asking how talented they really are.’ 

In Great Expectations, Miss Havisham is a lonely spinster who wears a tattered wedding dress after being jilted at the altar. 

However, the Sussexes’ prequel would recast the lonely spinster as a strong woman living in a patriarchal society. 

While it’s unclear if the show will get the green light from Netflix, brand and culture expert Nick Ede suggested it was a bid by them to cash in on the success of historical dramas like Bridgerton.  

The WSJ also reported that Taylor Swift refused to appear on Archetypes despite receiving a personal letter from Meghan. 

While the series is no more, Harry’s documentary on the Invictus Games, a production agreed shortly after the couple signed the £80million deal with Netflix in 2020, is still in the works. 

The programme, Heart of Invictus, will follow competitors around the world training for the Games at The Hague which had been expected to take place in 2020 but were delayed until 2021 due to the pandemic. 

It is one of the couple’s only ideas that was not rejected by the streaming giant. 

Spotify revealed earlier this month that it was terminating Meghan’s podcast, Archetypes 

The WSJ said that Harry and Meghan had suggested shows that were too similar to already popular Netflix programmes such as sitcoms like Emily in Paris but ‘about a man’, and a show about LGBTQ characters similar to those in Heartstopper. 

Another suggestion was a documentary discussing misinformation – which also did not make it off the drawing board.   

A team assigned to the job at Archewell inevitably had questions, including whether Harry and Meghan would feature in the show and give their opinions on the topic. 

The couple responded to the queries with little resolution and the idea was dropped, according to the report. 

Also rejected was an animated show about powerful women in history called Pearl.

When it revealed the cancellation of the kid’s programme in May 2022, Netflix representatives said it was decided that children would not be influenced by the fact the show was produced by a duchess. 

Meghan’s podcast, produced by Spotify as part of their deal and about stereotypes faced by women, also hit a brick wall this month and will not be signed for a second season. 

Netflix reportedly shelled out a whopping £81million for the bombshell docuseries ‘Harry & Meghan’ last December

The streaming giant and the Sussexes’s audio production company Archewell Audio released a joint statement last week saying they have ‘mutually agreed to part ways and are proud of the series we made together’.

Meghan and Harry reportedly signed a £15million ($20million) deal with Spotify for the project in late 2020 but insiders close to the audio giant claim the royal couple did not meet the productivity benchmark required to receive the full payout, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The talent agency that recently signed Meghan, WME, said: ‘The team behind Archetypes remain proud of the podcast they created at Spotify. 

READ MORE HERE: So what’s next for Harry and Meghan after £18M Spotify deal was axed? 

‘Meghan is continuing to develop more content for the Archetypes audience on another platform.’ 

It was also revealed that while working on the Archetypes podcast Spotify executives became increasingly frustrated with Archewell’s snail pace approach, highlighting that it would take a long time to conceptualise an episode idea and Meghan would ask for last minute changes.

Getting guests onto the show also proved difficult – with Taylor Swift rejecting an appearance. 

Despite these strains, the podcast launched in August last year and soared to the top of streaming charts in its first week. 

Harry’s appearance on podcasts – which was part of the Spotify deal – did not come to anything.

By contrast, Harry’s bombshell autobiography, Spare, brought in £16million and became the fastest-selling non-fiction book since records began in 1998, selling more than 3.2million copies worldwide in its first week.

In the UK, it notched up more than 750,000 sales during the same period, according to publishers Transworld, the UK division of Penguin Random House.

It’s understood that Prince Harry has donated a sizeable amount of the money made from the publication to charity, with the father-of-two expected to give somewhere in the region of £1.6million to good causes.

Harry’s bombshell autobiography Spare brought in £16million and became the fastest-selling non-fiction book since records began in 1998 

Netflix reportedly shelled out a whopping £81million for the bombshell docuseries ‘Harry & Meghan’ last December as part of a multi-year deal with the firm.

The series became Netflix’s second-highest ranked documentary ever – behind The Tinder Swindler.

It is understood that the project created tension at Archewell after Harry and Meghan weighed in on the final touches and were sometimes overruled. 

The couple then hoped to reach the streaming charts again with their ‘Live to Lead’ series, a docuseries about global leaders and activists which aired on New Year’s Eve in 2022. 

The show however failed to reach the top ten of most streamed shows in that period.

Following the pandemic, Netflix has struggled to retain loyal viewers who during lockdown were glued to their screens and racking up profits for the company. 

Netflix’s subscriber growth began to slow as customers went back to regular life and in 2022 announced its first quarter of subscriber losses in a decade. In turn, producers and film studios are much more selective of content output.

And recently Spotify announced it would be laying off around 200 staff members – around 2 per cent of their workforce – who work within their podcast teams. It cited difficulties in making podcasts profitable, despite its popularity among listeners. 

The couple hoped to hit Netflix’s charts with their documentary Live To Lead, but it failed to make the top ten

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