In a surprising last-minute maneuver, HBO Max worked some serious magic for Harry Potter fans by locking down all eight of the original films and making them instantly available for subscribers just before the new streaming service launched on Wednesday.
According to TVLine, the deal wasn’t as simple as just waving a wand. Despite both HBO Max and the Harry Potter films being Warner Media properties, the new service still had to navigate notoriously convoluted streaming rights, which in this case, involved ponying up some serious cash to get another studio to relinquish its hold on the franchise.
Universal back in 2016 inked a deal to secure exclusive rights to the franchise, including on-air and digital dibs on all Wizarding World films (including two Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them flicks). That means that Warner Media had to actively buy back what it once owned, for many a shiny galleon. (As industry analyst Matthew Ball put it on Twitter, it was a “big, costly, and important move” for the newbie streaming service, akin to how Disney+ has made it a mission to accumulate as many Marvel films as possible.)
But the deal wasn’t an entirely clean break where Warner Bros. flew off into the night with the beloved franchise. As of this writing, the second Fantastic Beasts film, The Crimes of Grindelwald is only available through HBO Max if you already have an HBO cable subscription. (It’s complicated.)
The acquisition is still a major win for the streaming service’s first day though. Knowing that the entire Harry Potter series is available is sure to entice new subscribers, which is why HBO Max content chief Kevin Reilly made it a point to cite landing the massive franchise as a “high on our priority list” during a lengthy interview with Business Insider just a few days ago. However, it’s notable that just that recently, Reilly couldn’t confirm a timetable on when the films would be available on HBO Max, so it sure sounds like the ink isn’t even dry on this surprise addition.