NBCU secures digital, linear rights to J.K. Rowling magic

The deal, which includes the Harry Potter franchise, is valued around $200 million - more, should sales of Fantastic Beasts also perform well.
August 9, 2016

The literary works of J.K. Rowling have, for years, cast a spell over children and adults alike with their irresistible tales of wizards and imaginary worlds.

Now NBCUniversal is looking to tap some of that magic through a multi-million-dollar deal with Warner Bros. that gives the media co linear and digital rights in the United States to the entire Harry Potter franchise, one of the biggest grossing film series of all time.

The deal also encompasses the three upcoming films in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, and extra content such as the extended director’s cut versions of the first two Potter films, the 2011 When Harry Left Hogwarts featurette, and 3D versions of the last two films in the Potter series.

In addition, it expands on the company’s existing relationship with Rowling’s characters via its Universal theme parks.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story, an NBCU spokesperson described the agreement as “the largest movie acquisition in the company’s history.”

The price tag associated with the deal has not been formally confirmed; however, media reports value it around $200 million — more, should the Fantastic Beasts movies perform well at the box office. The first movie in that series is set to hit theaters this November.

NBCU confirmed in a media statement that all eight Potter films will become available as of July 1, 2018, airing primarily on USA Network and Syfy. Both on-air and digital rights across NBCU television networks will extend through to April 2025.

The company has not yet made clear its digital distribution plans for the films.

Currently, Disney holds the rights to the Potter films, which collectively generated about $7.7 billion in worldwide box office sales between 2001 to 2011. That distribution agreement is set to end in June of 2018.

The WSJ states that Disney had sought to hold onto the franchise but was reportedly outbid by NBCU.

“We are pleased to bring one of the most successful and enduring global franchises to the networks of NBCUniversal,” said Jeffrey R. Schlesinger, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution, in a statement. “We feel this is a perfect new home for the Harry Potter films and the upcoming Fantastic Beasts films. Having all of these films in one place builds upon the existing relationship we already have with NBCUniversal and J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, and creates many exciting new opportunities across multiple platforms for both our companies and the fans of this franchise.”


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