Spotify has pulled the plug on its $25million (£18million) podcasting partnership with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex after putting out just one 12-episode series. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wasted no time in building a multimedia empire after stepping down as working members of the Royal Family and moving to the US in 2020.
Their company, Archewell Productions, snapped up deals with Netflix and Spotify in quick succession, reportedly worth some $60million (£46million) at the time. Three years later, things are beginning to unravel. After just 12 episodes, Spotify have confirmed they will not be renewing the Duchess of Sussex’s podcast, Archetypes – which saw the former actress speak to a range of high-profile figures to “explore and subvert the labels that try to hold women back.” A joint statement from Archewell and the music streamer said they had “mutually agreed to part ways”. Now that it has ended, what did we learn from the former actresses’ podcast?
1. Don’t call Meghan a diva
Episode two of the podcast – frequently cited as the best of the series – featured the uber-popular American singer Mariah Carey and was dug into the “duality of diva”. At the term of a discussion on the word’s negative connotations of petulance or being “temperamental”, the popstar appeared to deviate from the script by saying: “You give us diva moments sometimes, Meghan.” After a few moments of flustered silence, the Duchess of Sussex innocently protests. In the voiceover recorded later, she reflected: “I just kept thinking in that moment, was my girl crush coming to a quick demise? Does she actually not see me?”
2. She was only treated as a “Black woman” after she started dating Prince Harry
The podcast opened up what would become a near six-month period in which the Sussexes made a range of damaging allegations about the Duchesses’ treatment in the Royal Family. She said: “I mean, if there’s any time in my life that it’s been more focused on my race, it’s only once I started dating my husband. Then I started to understand what it was like to be treated like a Black woman. Because up until then, I had been treated like a mixed woman. And things really shifted.”
In speaking to tennis ace Serena Williams in the opening episode of the show, she also claimed she had never personally felt the negative connotation behind being called “ambitious” until she began dating Prince Harry. The conversations themselves steered clear of directly attacking the British monarchy – saving bombshells for the couple’s Netflix docuseries and Spare – but did land some thinly veiled jabs. The host ended the final episode with a quote from Greek poet Dinos Christianopoulos: “What didn’t you do to bury me? But you forgot that I was a seed to that point. My friend, keep growing and I’ll see you on the flip side as ever.”
3. Meghan Markle was a “ugly duckling” growing up
In episode three, titled “The Stigma of the Singleton”, the Duchess opened up to comedian Mindy Kaling about her high school experience. She revealed that she “never had anyone to sit with at lunch”, and described herself as an “ugly duckling” in her teenage years, with “massive frizzy curly hair and a huge gap in my teeth”. She said: “I was always a little bit of a loner and really shy and didn’t know where I fit in.” As a result of this she threw herself into extracurriculars – becoming president of the Multicultural Club among others – which would go on to empower her to pursue bigger things later in life.
4. Some people loved it, but not for long
For a time after the first episode dropped on August 23, Archetypes was topping the global podcast charts, drawing in an estimated 11 million weekly listeners. In December, it took home the top podcast prize at the People’s Choice Awards in Los Angeles. Despite this, enthusiasm had waned significantly throughout the season. Royal biographer Angela Levin slammed the series as “dull” in an interview on GB News, a criticism echoed by many listeners. By the tenth episode, the show had fallen to 22nd on Spotify’s US rankings, as pundits called out its repetitiveness and the fact that its host was “clearly most interested” in telling her own story, despite the slew of enigmatic interviewees.
5. It was just too expensive
The Archewell-Spotify team-up was billed as one that would produce several series when it was announced. In reality, just 12 episodes emerged from the $25million (£18million) spend. The show was produced by a team of 28 – over double the headcount for a similar podcast of this size.
US media reports suggest the royal couple fell short of the productivity benchmark set for them by the music streamer, and wouldn’t be receiving the full value of the contract. Last week, Spotify announced it was culling 200 jobs in its podcasting department after investing heavily over the past few years.