Update: July 10, 3:45 p.m.: Evanesco! The Harry Potter movies will be disappearing from HBO Max on August 25, the platform announced on Monday. The eight movies in the franchise were a last-minute addition to WarnerMedia’s spiffy new streamer, appearing without any advance notice when the service signed on at the end of May. Their inclusion on Max was a bit of a surprise: While WarnerMedia controls the overall rights to the films, NBCUniversal signed a deal a few years back leasing the movies for its various linear and digital platforms until 2025. WarnerMedia and NBCU made a deal last spring letting Max claw back some of those rights on a nonexclusive basis, and now we know that this agreement (which has never been formally announced) limited Max’s initial time frame for streaming the Potter films to three months — at least for now.
It’s pretty common in movie licensing deals for titles to come on and off networks and platforms, so much so that there’s an industry phrase for it: “windowing.” Usually, these windows last for years, but since many current rights deals (like NBCU’s with WarnerMedia for Harry Potter) were struck before the recent launch of so many new streamers, we are now likely to see shorter windows as various streamers try to find ways to generate publicity and sign-up. While nobody involved is talking, it seems a safe bet that with the Potter pics leaving Max, their next streaming home — at least for a few months — will be NBCU’s Peacock. The company’s deal with WarnerMedia lets it put the movies on NBCU-owned streaming properties, so if the films aren’t going to be on Max, common sense dictates NBCU will want to drive audiences to Peacock with the lure of Harry and the gang. A Peacock rep, however, declined to comment on our speculation.
By the way, just as it was a mistake to assume the Potter movies would be on HBO Max for years to come, it probably wouldn’t be smart to assume the films will now live on Peacock full time until NBCU’s licensing deal expires in 2025. While NBCU might have the right to keep the films locked away from Max, the fact that the company negotiated a spring window for HBO Max suggests there’s a chance that initial agreement could have the Potter movies jumping back and forth between the platforms, or even coexisting together at some point. After all, Peacock is an ad-supported streamer while Max is subscription based. Movies often live on premium linear networks such as HBO and basic cable channels such as USA Network; there’s no reason something similar can’t happen with two kinds of streamers.
May 27, 2020: HBO Max just conjured up an unexpected weapon in its battle to sign up new subscribers: the Harry Potter franchise. In a surprise development, all eight movies in the wizarding series will be a part of HBO Max’s opening day roster, the platform announced Wednesday. The films were not expected to be on HBO Max any time soon, since NBCUniversal had rights to the Potter package tied up until 2025. And while HBO Max execs had made it clear (as recently as this week) that they were interested in figuring out a way to get the movies for the service eventually, there had been no indication any such agreement would be reached in time for today’s launch.
As of the time this story was published, it was not immediately clear what changed — though logic suggests HBO Max parent WarnerMedia was able to hammer out some sort of deal with NBCU giving HBO Max streaming rights to the movies. An HBO Max rep was able to confirm that the service now has exclusive subscription video on demand rights to the Potter movies, all of which were produced by HBO Max sibling studio Warner Bros. Pictures. The movies had not be on a subscription streamer, like Netflix or Hulu, but NBCU-owned networks Syfy and USA have been making them available to stream on their websites. It’s unclear if HBO Max’s streaming “exclusivity” includes the ad-supported showings on the NBCU websites, but barring a complete ripping up of the 2016 pact, it seems likely NBCU will retain linear rights to the movies, allowing them to continue to air on broadcast and cable.
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