Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s first major interview since they parted ways with the British royal family has sparked a bidding war in the UK for the rights to broadcast the much-coveted reunion.
Sources say Variety that Comcast-backed pay-TV operator Sky and free-to-air players ITV and the BBC are bidding for the CBS primetime special, hosted by Oprah Winfrey. The streaming giants Amazon or Netflix are not believed to be in the running.
It is understood that ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group, which will sell the show overseas, is eager for the interview to land on a free-to-air broadcaster, which would ensure a meaningful profile in the UK.
The negotiations are likely to come down to a direct shootout between UK public broadcasters. ITV, in particular, has a proven track record of hosting content with members of British royalty, notably the annual “Royal Variety Performance,” which is attended by senior members of the royal family.
It’s also worth noting that Markle and Prince Harry gave one of their most prominent interviews to date with ITV journalist Tom Bradby as part of the 2019 broadcaster’s documentary “Harry & Meghan: An African Journey,” during the which Bradby asked Megan if she was okay, a very human gesture that Markle even referenced in her recent New York Times op-ed.
The timing of the CBS special could also be a factor for whoever wins the rights, and could spell trouble for the BBC.
Queen’s annual Commonwealth broadcast will air on BBC One on Sunday March 7, the same day as the CBS interview. The broadcast, prerecorded at Windsor Castle, is part of Anita Rani’s “A Celebration For Commonwealth Day” program, which will also feature the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Countess of Wessex.
Last year the Commonwealth show aired at 2:15 pm UK time, but when this year’s edition will air is still unknown. If it airs at night, the BBC, if it wins the rights, could be watching an almost consecutive block of real programming, which will not be the best view for the public service broadcaster. The couple’s interview will air on CBS at 8pm ET / PST, which will be 1am in the UK.
Notably, streamers haven’t gotten on the CBS special, particularly since Markle and Prince Harry have a multi-year contract with Netflix. But it’s not entirely surprising: the most logical home in terms of audience for such a high-profile and topical interview is undoubtedly a broadcaster, and despite the bitter divorce from the Royal Family and the barrage of negative press while they lived and They worked in the UK, Markle and Prince Harry have their share of fans and fans in Britain.
Announced last week, Winfrey will speak first to Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, about her move into real life, marriage, motherhood, her philanthropic work and how she handles life under the public eye. Then Prince Harry will join the two to discuss his move to the United States and his future goals.
The special is produced by Harpo Productions. Terry Wood and Tara Montgomery will serve as executive producers, along with co-executive producer Brian Piotrowicz.