NBCUniversal Buys Harry Potter Rights in Enormous Franchise Deal (NBCU,TWX,DWA)

Harry Potter is coming to television. In a landmark deal that ranks among the largest movie franchise rights agreements of all time, NBCUniversal has acquired exclusive rights for the popular films and accompanying J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World franchise from Warner Bros. The announcement comes just weeks after NBCUniversal (NBCU), a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation (CMCSA) purchased Dreamworks Animation (DWA) for USD$3.8 billion. Through the deal with Warner Bros., a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX), NBCU will retain commercial TV rights for all eight of the Harry Potter films, as well as both on-air and digital rights to properties of the Wizarding World offshoot. The deal will be in effect from July 2018 through April 2025.

NBCU Makes Plans to Air Potter Movies

Deadline reports NBCU already has plans in the works to program special director's cuts of the eight main Potter films on its Syfy and USA Network. Disney (DIS), which currently owns the rights to the Potter movies, will relinquish rights in the summer of 2018, allowing NBCU the flexibility to air both original versions of the films and 3D editions, as well as separate shorter features affiliated with the franchise.

Wizarding World, a series of related films currently being developed, will release its first feature in November of 2016, with plans on the way already for a follow-up film due in 2018. The first in this new series, entitled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, will star Eddie Redmayne.

Expanded Potter Presence at Universal Theme Parks

Beyond exclusive access rights for the films in the Wizarding World series, NBCU will receive "exclusive content and events" for Wizarding World properties at its theme parks. Universal already has attractions relating to Harry Potter in locations around the world. When the new agreement becomes active in 2018, Universal parks will likely also include a variety of additional promotional ventures, screenings, and other special activities to further entice fans of the series. It is expected that NBCU and Warner Bros. will continue to collaborate on new projects related to the series and based on other writings by J.K. Rowling as well.

All told, estimates by the Wall Street Journal place the value of the rights agreement at a quarter of a billion dollars. This represents one of the largest movie franchise rights deals of its kind and is sure to be a sign of increased Harry Potter presence throughout Universal parks and on television. It is the latest in a long string of big-money announcements regarding the popular franchise, which has frequently been characterized by throngs of fans waiting outside of premiere showings of the films and selling out copies of book installments before they are released.

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