Before Netflix swooped to buy the rights to hit drama series The Crown starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith, the BBC was interested in securing the rights to the show.
Andy Harries, the show’s executive producer, spoke to the BBC as well as Sky and ITV before eventually securing a generous bid from the US streaming giant.
It is believed that UK broadcasters, including the BBC, didn’t have the budget to make the sprawling royal drama, said to have cost £100 million for two series.
However, Harries says he believes the most likely British broadcaster – the BBC – would have been the wrong choice even if they were able to match the Netflix bid.
“We will never know, but I think when people see the first series of The Crown they could think, ‘It could have been on the BBC’.
“Well, yes, the 1950s is quite a long long time ago. But it’s going to get a lot more interesting in series three and four when we’re into Diana, we’re into Mrs Thatcher and we’re into all the contemporary issues that all of us remember from the last ten or 15 years. Who knows how the sensitivities of how those scripts would have fared with the closeness of the BBC and the Palace?”
The new series is set in the early 1960s and will show cracks in the marriage of the Queen and Prince Philip, with Claire Foy’s monarch telling her husband that he is not sufficiently supportive.
According to Harries, the BBC’s “sensitivity” on royal issues meant that it has obstructed The Crown writer Peter Morgan. The producer said Morgan hasn’t been able to get a copy of the Martin Bashir Panorama programme in which he interviewed Princess Diana from the BBC library.
Harries also praised the way Netflix has handled the project.
He said that streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have a “much more refreshing, much simpler, much more dramatically direct and less interfering approach – and that is the future. There is no question of that.”
Harries noted that, over the past few weeks, Netflix had signed up leading talent such as David Letterman and the Coen Brothers to make shows for its service.
“They are attracting all this talent because this is what they are saying to them: ‘Come and make stuff for us. You can do it the way you want to do it. We are going to finance it; you make it.’ And that is what talent wants.”
Harries added, “At the end of the day, the biggest challenge to other broadcasters – whether they be terrestrial or otherwise – is that talent is going to start swinging increasingly over to places where they can do what they want to do.
“This is why the BBC and ITV are going to be increasingly under pressure, because talent want to make shows they want to make in a way they want to make them. And by and large Netflix has proven that that has, on the whole, done very well.”