How Warner Bros. lost the streaming rights to Harry Potter, and where you can find it


For a straight decade, from 2001 to 2011, Warner Bros. made eight Harry Potter movies, all of which have gone on to be beloved by Potterheads. Now, WarnerMedia has a new streaming service coming out in May: HBO Max. So if Warner Bros. is part of WarnerMedia, you’d expect the Harry Potter movies to be on there, right?

Wrong. It ends up that none of the Potter films (or the Fantastic Beasts movies) will be on HBO Max. Why? It’s all about contracts contracts. Those silly, silly contracts.

You see, back in 2016, Warner Bros. sold the digital rights to Harry Potter franchise off to NBCUniversal. At the time, Warner probably didn’t have a solid plan for a streaming service in place, so it seemed like a better idea to sell the rights off and get paid whenever a Harry Potter movie ran on one of the many outlets operated by NBCUniversal.

But now, as WarnerMedia prepares to fight for a part of the streaming pie with the likes of Netflix and Disney+, the Harry Potter films could be a real asset. If only Time Turners were a real thing…

Instead, if you want to watch any of the Potter movies, you’ll have to sign up for NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock. And happily it’s free (with ads), so that should be pretty easy. Under the licensing deal, Warner Bros. won’t get an opportunity to get the Harry Potter movies back until 2025, and who knows what the streaming landscape will look like then?

These sorts of deals cut both ways, though. Take Friends, for example. That aired on NBC, so you’d expect it to be on NBCUniversal’s streaming service…but it’s not. That show will stream on HBO Max, since it was a Warner Bros. production.

I’m not sure if anyone is as confused as I am, but it looks like if we want to watch any of our old favorites, we have to subscribe to…everything. It makes you wistful for the days when everything was on Netflix because it was the only viable streaming service around, or even before, when streaming services didn’t exist and you just caught old episodes of Friends on TV.

But those days are gone. It’s at least possible that not all the current services will survive the coming streaming wars, and some things will get more consolidated. In the meantime, we’re here to try and make sense of it all for you.

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h/t Vanity Fair