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Netflix's Reed Hastings credits co-CEO with landing Prince Harry/Meghan Markle deal

Max Zahn with Andy Serwer

Netflix (NFLX) won the latest skirmish in the streaming wars last week, when it inked a multi-year production deal with Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle.

In a recent interview, Netflix co-founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings attributed the agreement entirely to the work of Ted Sarandos, who has overseen content at the company for two decades and became co-CEO in July. Touting the deal, Hastings said the company is “super excited” about bringing the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on board.

“It’s all my co-CEO Ted Sarandos,” Hastings told Yahoo Finance on Sept. 3. “He's worked with them a lot over several years.”

“We’re excited for what that means for Netflix,” he adds. “Another great set of producers to provide content that people really want to watch.”

The deal, reportedly worth upwards of $100 million, will pay Harry and Meghan to make a host of programming, including scripted television, children’s shows, and documentaries. The couple will shape the content as producers.

Harry and Meghan landed the agreement just six months after they decamped from the House of Windsor, leaving behind their full-time roles in the royal family and eventually settling in Montecito, California in July.

Harry and Megan reportedly spoke about a potential production deal with Disney (DIS), Apple (AAPL), Quibi, and NBCUniversal (CMCSA) in recent months, before signing on with Netflix.

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The deal marks yet another success for Sarandos, who has overseen content as Netflix spent tens or even hundreds of millions to add celebrity creators like former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama, artist Beyonce Knowles-Carter, “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes, and “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy.

The promotion of Sarandos from chief content officer to co-CEO will not alter day-to-day operations at the company, said Hastings, the co-author with business professor Erin Meyer of a new book entitled, “No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention.

“With Ted, we've worked together for more than 20 years. We've been operating as co-CEOs anyway,” Hastings says. “This just formalizes that — really hasn't changed anything.”

Prince Harry The Duke of Sussex and Duchess Meghan of Sussex have signed a multiyear production deal with Netflix. Image: AP
Prince Harry The Duke of Sussex and Duchess Meghan of Sussex have signed a multiyear production deal with Netflix. Image: AP

Hastings spoke to Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

Prince Harry made his Netflix debut late last month as a featured voice in the documentary “Rising Phoenix,” which chronicles the origins of the Paralympic Games. Documentaries produced by the couple may feature Markle on camera, but she does not intend to return to acting, The New York Times reported.

Over the past year, Netflix has faced a slew of new competitors in streaming, including Disney Plus, HBO Max (T), Peacock, and Apple TV. Plus, Hulu and Amazon Prime (AMZN) remain significant challengers.

Founder and CEO of Netflix Reed Hastings (R) and Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos (L) attend a Netflix event on March 1, 2017 in Berlin. / AFP PHOTO / John MACDOUGALL
Founder and CEO of Netflix Reed Hastings (R) and Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos (L) attend a Netflix event on March 1, 2017 in Berlin. / AFP PHOTO / John MACDOUGALL

Netflix added nearly 26 million subscribers over the first six months of this year, bringing its total subscribers worldwide to about 193 million. By comparison, Disney Plus had 60.5 million subscribers worldwide as of Aug. 3 — though the platform has operated for a far shorter time, having launched last November.

The world famous royal couple will likely help Netflix increase its international audience, which Hastings described as a priority for the company.

“We'd like to continue to expand around the world,” he says. “To be as great in Chile, as great in Vietnam, as great in Japan, as great in Denmark, as we are in the United States.”

“Then, to be able to share content between countries, between cultures, between racial groups,” he adds. “To increase understanding through entertainment.”

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