ITN Productions Boss Ian Rumsey Talks Netflixs Harry & Meghan & Bringing Royal Docs Up To Date For The Social Media Generation

EXCLUSIVE: The EP behind Prince Harry’s bombshell ITV interview has stressed its “truly independent” nature in contrast to Netflix’s Harry & Meghan docuseries.

ITN Productions (ITNP) MD Ian Rumsey said Harry & Meghan had been “slightly overshadowed” by the debates thrown up around the royal couple’s involvement with the project. The show, which achieved gangbuster ratings, was co-produced by Harry and Meghan Markle’s Archewell Productions and they were involved with the editorial.

“It was made in a certain way in conjunction with Harry and Meghan which felt like they were partners in that doc,” said Rumsey. “So I can understand there is a debate about what level of involvement the subjects should have.”

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The Prince Harry ITV interview, on the other hand, “felt truly independent,” Rumsey said, although there had been independence concerns before it aired due to presenter Tom Bradby’s friendship with Harry and the fact that the Duke of Sussex was promoting his memoir Spare.

During the January interview, Harry delivered several bombshell remarks including an extraordinary broadside against the “briefings, leakings and plantings” to the press that had come from members of his family about him and his wife.

“The most important thing was that this was an interview with real, credible, journalistic vigor,” said Rumsey, as the dust settles on an interview that took place more than three months ago. “Now, when we talk to broadcasters, we can say we pulled off the Harry interview and this shows a degree of skill, trust and access.”

The Harry interview has now sold to more than 80 territories and there has been an increase in sales of shows about younger royals including Prince Andrew’s daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, and Princess Anne’s daughter Zara Tindall, said Rumsey, while ITN has unearthed lucrative new archive such as clips of Harry and William playing together as children.

Rumsey was speaking to Deadline as King Charles III’s Coronation approaches, with Harry set to attend without Markle. ITN is providing a stream of next Saturday’s event – the first Coronation in seven decades – for multiple territories including the U.S. where it will be used by CNN. It has also released newly digitized clips of the King from down the years, including when he and wife Camilla met ABBA.

Over the past three years, ITNP has produced 75 documentaries about the British Royal Family and Rumsey said “we’ve [recently] been focused on bringing some of our older shows up to date” before they are taken out once again to the international market. New archive and fresh interviews with people close to the royal subjects have been added in order to make older docs more contemporary.

Rumsey said the uptick in international sales has happened “just when you thought maybe people are getting tired of them” following Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and the various Harry and Meghan-related controversies. ITNP’s dozens of documentaries are mainly produced for Paramount-owned Channel 5 or are funded directly by distributors.

“Insatiable appetite”

“I’m surprised that we still have this level of appetite and interest,” said Rumsey. “It goes through stages but we are in a period where there is an insatiable appetite. It feels like a soap opera, playing out in real time in front of our eyes.”

Younger members of the Royal Family are active on social media and Rumsey said this is allowing doc makers to tap into a new generation of viewers.

“These younger royals are starting to feel quite accessible,” he added. “People feel like they know more about their lives compared to 50 years ago when people were just fed information [on the Royals] by the papers.”

ITNP also runs what it claims is YouTube’s most popular Royal Family channel. Launched in 2019, the channel took two years to reach 1M subscribers, another 12 months to reach 2M and then reached 3M in just six weeks around the time of the Queen’s funeral, according to ITN. It drummed up a record 1.1BN views last year, the news organization said.

“Even on TikTok we’ve seen reworked clips [of the Royals] do really well,” explained Tami Hoffman, ITNP’s Head of News and Archive.

“We think of something like a King’s Coronation as being from the 1950s with people watching on TV for a lean-back experience but it’s interesting how much appetite there will be across social media.”

ITN has also forged a series of YouTube Coronation explainers along with shorts for BritBox titled Countdown to the Crown: The Who’s Who and What’s What of the Coronation, which will sit outside the streamer’s paywall.

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