Royally Canceled: Spotify Axes Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Podcast Amid Continued Cutbacks

Spotify Harry Meghan podcast producers
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Spotify Harry Meghan podcast producers
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Photo Credit: Bruce Detorres / CC by 2.0

Weeks after laying off another 200 or so podcasting employees, Spotify has confirmed the “mutual” end of its deal with Archewell Audio and the adjacent cancellation of Meghan Markle’s Archetypes.

The Stockholm-headquartered streaming giant’s split with Archewell Audio (which was founded by Markle and Prince Harry) just recently emerged in a Wall Street Journal report. While the companies’ initial agreement was reportedly valued at somewhere in the ballpark of $25 million, the Journal, citing anonymous sources with knowledge of the matter, indicated that the royal podcasters had failed to meet “the productivity benchmarks required to receive the full payout.”

Of course, the latter shouldn’t come as a surprise to seasoned observers (and let-down listeners). First announced in late 2020, the tie-up somewhat astonishingly produced only one lackluster episode of the namesake Archewell Audio podcast – a “2020 holiday special.” (In a two-minute introduction to the program, Prince Harry encouraged fans to “tap follow” so they’d have the chance to “hear new shows.”) Markle’s Archetypes, on the other hand, released 12 total episodes from August of 2022 through November of the same year.

On the heels of months-long discussions about a potential second Archetypes season, Spotify informed Archewell “in recent weeks” that it had opted not to move forward with the series, per the Journal. And in a statement, the involved parties said they’d “mutually agreed to part ways and are proud of the series we made together.”

Meanwhile, WME (which reps Markle) took the opportunity to disclose in its own statement that “Meghan is continuing to develop more content for the Archetypes audience on another platform.”

In addition to this latest cancellation and the initially mentioned podcasting layoffs, Spotify has since Q4 2022 pulled the plug on a number of other programs as well as its Spotify Live app.

Content “repackaging,” an embrace of “broadcast-to-podcast” technology, advertising enhancements, and the hiring of multiple podcast higher-ups represent some of the other moves made by Spotify in 2023 as part of a broader effort to render the format profitable. (In September of 2022, CFO Paul Vogel predicted that his company’s podcasting operations would “flip to profitable over the next 12 to 24 months.”)

Needless to say, these pivots and programming cutbacks – which, if CEO Daniel Ek’s comments are any indication, won’t be the last – mean that Spotify has seemingly paused its rapid-fire acquisition strategy of old. Even so, and despite streamlining operations by shutting down certain units and selling others, the FC Barcelona-partnered platform isn’t pinching pennies in all areas.

At the time of this writing, Spotify stock (NYSE: SPOT) was hovering around $157 per share – representing a roughly three percent valuation gain on the day and an approximately five percent boost on the week.