Comcast Corp.'s NBC Universal has acquired the rights to J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" and "Fantastic Beasts" franchises from Warner Bros. in a move that could bolster ratings at its cable networks and attendance at its theme parks.
The seven-year deal, which begins in July 2018, will make all eight "Harry Potter" films and the forthcoming "Fantastic Beasts" movies available on NBC's portfolio of cable networks, which include USA and Syfy, according to a company statement Monday. It also lets NBC's theme parks host fan events, movie screenings and promotional activities tied to both franchises.
Walt Disney Co.'s Freeform, formerly called ABC Family, currently has the rights to the Potter films. NBC will gain the rights to show the movies in an exclusive window. The "Fantastic Beasts" films will debut first on HBO and then be exclusive to NBC's cable networks.
The deal between NBC Universal and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. is valued at about $200 million, though that figure could increase based on how well the "Fantastic Beasts" films fare, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private deal terms. The movie "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," the first in a trilogy of Potter spinoffs, will debut in November and is projected to make more than $200 million at the box office, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
Acquiring the Harry Potter films could lift viewership at USA and Syfy, which has been down this season. NBC's Universal Studios Hollywood recently launched a new attraction called "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter." It features a giant castle, magic wand shops and a ride that simulates flying on a broomstick, as well as selling "Harry Potter" merchandise. The new attraction has lifted attendance and per-capital spending at the park, Comcast Chief Financial Officer Mike Cavanagh said during a recent earnings call.
The deal was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
-- Bloomberg News