the streaming wars

Harry Potter Movies Apparate Over to Peacock

Not a peacock. Photo: Warner Bros.

The Harry Potter movies may be leaving HBO Max later this month, but fear not, Potterheads: They’re getting a new home on Peacock. Every movie in the eight-film franchise will stream for free on NBCUniversal’s recently launched streaming platform starting in October, Vulture has learned. They’ll remain on Peacock for at least a month and then return again in 2021 as part of a six-month window in which Peacock will have subscription video on demand rights to the series.

Fans of the blockbuster franchise who signed up for HBO Max in May because of the movies’ availability on the service were no doubt taken aback a few weeks ago when Max casually dropped the news that the Potter franchise would be disappearing on August 25, a mere three months after the platform launched. While it’s quite common for movies to come and go from streaming services and cable networks, tentpole titles (and franchises) owned by the company behind a service tend to stay around for many months or even years, making them part of the appeal of the service. Casablanca, for instance, is synonymous with Turner Classic Movies. But in the case of the Potter movies, even though Max parent WarnerMedia owns the underlying rights to the franchise, it doesn’t currently have complete control of where the movies air on TV or on streaming. That’s because a few years ago, before Max was even on the drawing board, the company leased TV (and some streaming) rights to the Potter films until 2025 to … yup, NBCUniversal. However, prior to the Max launch, the two companies hammered out a deal that allowed Max to stream the movies for three months before heading to Peacock.

According to Frances Manfredi, president of content acquisition and strategy for Peacock, the Potter movies will play on the service during multiple windows between October and March. The first window will last for a month, with the movies then airing on NBCU’s linear broadcast and cable networks (and, potentially, their websites). They’ll then return to Peacock early in 2021. It seems likely that Peacock and HBO Max could continue to share custody of young Mr. Potter and his friends through 2025, though as of yet, no deals have been worked out for future shared windows. One difference between Potter on Peacock versus Max: Unless a customer has signed up for the $10 per month ad-free plan, there will be commercials on Peacock. Users who pay nothing for the service will possibly get a few more minutes of ads per hour, while those with Peacock Premium may be able to watch a pre-roll presentation of as little as three minutes of commercials and then stream ad-free. (Manfredi said no decisions have been made about how many ads will run on the Potter films.)

While it can sometimes be confusing for audiences to figure out where their fave films live, Manfredi believes the continued existence of “windowing” — where movies play on one service or platform and then move elsewhere — is good for streamers and customers alike. “It keeps the offering fresh,” she says. “We don’t believe that having a stagnant film library that doesn’t change out is the way to go.” She says the alternative, in which WarnerMedia movies would stream only on HBO Max or movies from NBCU-owned Universal streamed only on Peacock, would result in services that were far less dynamic. “Everyone wins in windowing,” she said. “If studios were keeping that content internal only, everyone would do that … We are glad films are windowed because without that windowing strategy we probably wouldn’t have an opportunity to buy most of the biggest films.”

That doesn’t mean some movies won’t have long and exclusive windows on streaming platforms, including Peacock. Manfredi notes she and Blumhouse recently hammered out a deal to bring the studio’s recent Kevin Bacon film You Should Have Left to Peacock for what is expected to be an exclusive multiyear run. And Peacock will get first dibs on many movies from sibling Universal Pictures, including this spring’s Trolls World Tour, which debuts on the streamer next month. “We are going to maintain a high-quality film offering where we’re bringing in new titles each month,” Manfredi said. She also tells Vulture that films have been “outperforming their share” of the overall catalogue of movies and TV shows on Peacock, with some older titles proving particularly popular. “Reservoir Dogs has done very well for us,” she said, adding that 2010 Amy Adams rom-com Leap Year has also stood out for audiences.

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Harry Potter Movies Apparate Over to Peacock