Did Harry and Meghan blow up their brand? The prince's popularity is at a record low after the release of 'Spare' — but the Duke and Duchess aren't done telling their story yet
Prince Harry has set more than one record with his debut memoir. While “Spare” enjoys its title as the fastest-selling nonfiction book of all time, Harry’s popularity — especially in the U.K. — is quickly moving in the opposite direction.
A recent poll by YouGov found that Prince Harry’s favorability is at a record low since “Spare” came out.
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Following the highly lucrative PR frenzy around Harry's memoir and his Netflix docuseries with Meghan, critics wonder if the couple’s popularity has hit a peak — and if people are experiencing “Harry and Meghan fatigue.”
One critic from The New York Times speculates that despite Americans’ high tolerance for redemptive stories and family dysfunction, the media saturation of the ex-royals’ troubles has grown so tiresome that it may damage their potential future earnings. Forbes calls “Spare” “brand suicide.”
But their media empire shows no signs of slowing down. So, what's next for Prince Harry and Meghan?
Has “Spare” changed opinions of Harry?
The royal tell-all reveals explosive claims about Harry's personal life, including grief after his mother’s passing, his dysfunctional family dynamics, and the hardships he and wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, were forced to overcome.
The reach of both the Netflix docuseries and the book “Spare” suggests that Harry and Meghan’s audience has grown significantly, but some viewers may be losing interest.
Prince Harry’s favorability in the U.K. tumbled to a record low, according to a poll by YouGov. According to a survey of 1,691 British adults, 68% of them have a negative opinion of Harry, a 22% increase since September 2022.
Comparatively, 34% of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Prince Harry, a 6% increase since December 2022.
While promoting his book on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Harry proclaimed that “America is a great place to live,” and one particularly enthusiastic Twitter user replied “He’s our prince now.”
British viewers promptly responded with variations of “America can keep him.”
Last week, parody show South Park made headlines by releasing an episode dubbed "Worldwide Privacy Tour" that lampooned the couple's recent media moves and fallout with North American audiences.
Record breaking numbers
Harry and Meghan have generated unparalleled metrics with their recent media content. In Dec. 2022, the “Harry & Meghan” docuseries became Netflix’s highest-viewed documentary ever, recording 81.55 million global viewing hours in its first week of release.
The couple then promptly released their second Archewell production, “Live to Lead,” but the traction from their royal drama didn’t carry many viewers to the Nelson Mandela inspired docuseries. “Live to Lead” didn’t make any top 100 list of best TV shows, let alone Netflix’s top 10 where “Harry & Meghan'' remained for four weeks following its release.
A PR expert interviewed by The Mirror said the project was “one of the first tests commercially of their brand strategy to pull people in [with] personal drama and hope they stay for philanthropy.” So far it’s looking like that might not work.
Now “Spare” is raking in the big numbers. The widely publicized memoir earned the Guiness World Record title for the fastest-selling nonfiction book of all time, having sold more than 1.4 million copies in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. after just one day.
According to publisher Penguin Random House, “Spare” brought in the largest first-day sales total for any nonfiction book it had ever published, beating out Barack Obama's "A Promised Land."
Despite plenty of criticism from British royalists, “Spare” also became the U.K.’s Bestselling Memoir within one week, selling 467,183 copies, according to figures from Nielsen BookData. The only books to have enjoyed higher first-week sales since Nielsen's records began were four Harry Potter novels and Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol.
There is historical precedent for the book’s popularity as “Spare” isn’t the only memoir written by a member of the royal family that has done extremely well. It follows in the footsteps of Harry’s late mother Princess Diana who published “Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words” in 1992. The first edition sold over 5 million copies, according to Forbes.
According to Penguin Random House, “Spare” is now on its second round of printing after a first run of two million.
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Is there anywhere to go from here?
Harry and Meghan’s royal drama has been narrativized to the nth degree, previously arriving in the format of a 12-episode Spotify podcast series, and a six-hour Netflix docuseries. Including the book, the couple has earned a total of $138 million from these deals.
Chairman of the crisis management firm La Brea Media, Howard Bragman, told The New York Times that finite material like this has limited mileage. His advice to the couple would have been that you can only really tell your story once.
Harry and Meghan’s spokeswoman told Vanity Fair however that “these look-back projects have been years in the making, and now that they have been delivered, this chapter is closed.”
“Spare” will not mark the end of the couple’s burgeoning content empire, but will likely conclude the personal narrative.
What’s next for Harry and Meghan?
As a part of Harry and Meghan’s multi-year deal with Netflix, “Heart of Invictus" — a docuseries about the Invictus Games, an international competition for wounded servicemen and women – is expected to come out this summer.
Harry is also expected to produce a book about the subject. According to Entertainment Online, the couple’s deal with Penguin Random House will include a total of four books, including one book about the Invictus Games, and others exploring Harry’s life in public service.
Despite rumors circulating in the British press that the publisher is banking on another tell-all memoir from Meghan, a source assured Vanity Fair that she's not working on a book.
The book deal was originally thought to be worth $20 million, but Entertainment Tonight reports it will bring in between $35 and $40 million.
More Spotify content is forthcoming as well. Though the status of Meghan’s podcast series “Archetypes” is unclear after audio producer Rebecca Sananès stepped down from her season one role, it's clear that something is in the works. Page Six reported that Sananès is replaced by media executive Serena Regan.
After the media quotas have been fulfilled, the couple will likely return to their philanthropic work, according to the hosts of Hello Magazine’s podcast series “A Right Royal."
“I think most people would like to see more of that perhaps and less of the looking back to the past, because we’ve heard so much now about this rift.”
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