Released between 2001 and 2011, the films based on J.K. Rowling’s family-friendly series of books collectively grossed $7.7 billion for Warner Bros. Like other Warner titles, they had premium cable releases on HBO and in 2018 became available via the HBO Go and HBO Now streaming apps. (Go is for pay-TV subscribers to HBO and Now is a stand-alone version of HBO.) Digitally, they were available for rental and purchase but not via subscription streaming through a single outlet for non-HBO subscribers.
As was the case when Disney secured the Star Wars feature lineup for Disney+, WarnerMedia wanted to avoid any perception issue by herding all of the films into the HBO Max pen. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, a spinoff of the Potter films, will also be available on HBO Max.
NBCUniversal and Warner Bros. had reached a multi-year deal in 2016 for the Potter films to air on NBCU cable networks. That agreement with NBCU, reportedly worth about $250 million, took effect in 2018 and replaced a prior pact with Disney. It also included franchise rights for use in theme parks.
When NBCU began touting its new Peacock streaming service to investors in January, it was widely believed that the Potter films could be an anchor tenant on Peacock due to the 2016 deal. At TCA winter press tour in January, HBO Max content chief Kevin Reilly dropped strong hints that the Potter films would land on the service by launch. Even after the new deal, ad-supported broadcasts on cable as well as through authenticated streaming are still expected on NBCU platforms, including Peacock, according to people familiar with the companies’ agreement.
HBO Max went live just past midnight on Wednesday, with 10,000 hours of film and TV programming, including original shows and library titles. It is available free for many current HBO subscribers and for $15 a month to new customers. WarnerMedia projects that HBO Max, which is the last of a handful of well-funded newly launched streaming entrants looking to make up ground against Netflix, will reach 75 million to 90 million global subscribers by 2025.
WarnerMedia has said it plans to invest $4 billion in content for HBO Max in its first three years, a large chunk of which went to land exclusive streaming rights to Friends and South Park. An ad-supported version of the service is on track to launch in 2021.
HBO Max’s film lineup will also feature titles from the Warner vault as well as the Criterion Collection, Studio Ghibli, New Line and other libraries. Among the titles available at launch are Crazy Rich Asians, A Star is Born, Aquaman, Joker, the Alien franchise, the American Pie series, Anastasia, Babe, Die Hard, The Flintstones, In Bruges, The Indian in the Cupboard, Jaws, Moulin Rouge! and Teen Witch. Also available are the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, classics like Gone with the Wind, Casablanca and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The full DC slate, stretching back to the 1978 Superman, will come onto HBO during its first year, with director Zack Snyder’s new cut of Justice League ticketed for 2021.