Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s first major interview since splitting with the British Royal Family has sparked a hot bidding war in the U.K. for rights to air the highly coveted sit-down.
Sources tell Variety that Comcast-backed pay-TV operator Sky and free-to-air players ITV and the BBC are all bidding for the CBS primetime special, hosted by Oprah Winfrey. It’s not believed that streaming giants Amazon or Netflix are in the running.
It’s understood that ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group, which will be selling the program overseas, is keen for the interview to land on a free-to-air broadcaster, which would ensure a significant profile in the U.K.
It’s likely that negotiations will come down to a straight shoot-up between the U.K. public broadcasters. ITV, in particular, has a proven track record hosting content featuring the British Royals, 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 high-profile interviews to date to ITV journalist Tom Bradby as part of the broadcaster’s 2019 documentary “Harry & Meghan: An African Journey,” during which Bradby famously asked Megan whether she was okay — a very human gesture that Markle even referenced in her recent op-ed in the New York Times.
The timing of the CBS special could also be a factor for whomever wins the rights — and could pose some head-scratching for the BBC.
The Queen’s annual Commonwealth broadcast is due to air on BBC One on Sunday, March 7, the same day as the CBS interview. Pre-recorded at Windsor Castle, the broadcast is part of the Anita Rani-hosted program “A Celebration For Commonwealth Day,” 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 program aired at 2:15 p.m. U.K. time, but it’s still unknown when this year’s edition will air. If it airs in the evening, the BBC — if it wins the rights — could be looking at a near back-to-back block of royal programming, which won’t be the best optics for the public-service broadcaster. The couple’s interview is due to air on CBS at 8 p.m. ET/PST, which will be 1 a.m. in the U.K.
It’s noteworthy that the streamers haven’t jumped on the CBS special, particularly as Markle and Prince Harry have a multi-year deal in place with Netflix. But it’s not altogether surprising: the most logical home in terms of viewership for such a high-profile, topical interview is undoubtedly a broadcaster, and despite the bitter divorce from the Royal Family and the barrage of negative press while they were living and working in the U.K., Markle and Prince Harry have their share of supporters and fans in Britain.
Announced last week, Winfrey will first speak with Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, about stepping into royal life, marriage, motherhood, her philanthropic work and how she handles life under the public eye. The two will then be joined by Prince Harry to discuss their move to the United States and future goals.
The special is produced by Harpo Productions. Terry Wood and Tara Montgomery will executive produce, along with co-executive producer Brian Piotrowicz.
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