UPDATED with latest: At its Max streaming event in April 2023, Warner Bros. Discovery confirmed a new era is coming for Harry Potter fans. The company announced a TV series based on all seven books about the boy wizard written by J.K. Rowling. See below for the most current answers to the most important questions about the project.
What is the Harry Potter TV series about?
More from Deadline
“This new Max Original series will dive deep into each of the iconic books that fans have continued to enjoy for all of these years,” said Casey Bloys, Chairman and CEO, HBO & Max Content about the project, which he also assured fans would be “a faithful adaptation.”
Early reports had each season of the series focusing on one book in the Harry Potter book series, which consists of seven novels, but Bloys said the project would run for “10 consecutive years,” which would seem to defy the 1 season, 1 book assertion. For those who say Fantastic Beasts could be leveraged to provide 10 seasons over 10 years, WBD brass said specifically during the announcement that FB will not be a part of the series.
Whatever the case, Bloys promised that, as the company embarks on its new Harry Potter adventure, “We do so with the full care and craft of this franchise.”
Who Is creating the Harry Potter series?
It has taken a bit, given the initial announcement was in April 2023, but in recent months Warner Bros. invited a select group of creatives in to pitch ideas for what the series could be. They were Martha Hillier, Kathleen Jordan, Tom Moran and Michael Lesslie. Now, the streaming service and Warner Bros. Television have narrowed it to Jordan, Moran and newer addition Francesca Gardiner, sources said.
Deadline broke the news last month that Succession writer Francesca Gardiner is among the finalists. Gardiner was a consulting producer on Seasons 3 and 4 of HBO’s Succession. Before working on the Jesse Armstrong creation, she was an exec producer of HBO and BBC fantasy co-production His Dark Materials and was a co-exec producer of AMC’s Killing Eve. She has also written on shows including Starz’s The Rook and Amazon’s The Man In The High Castle.
Jordan created Netflix series Teenage Bounty Hunters. Jordan is also working with the Orange Is The New Black streamer on The Decameron, which received a series order in 2022.
Tom Moran is a British writer, who created Amazon series The Devil’s Hour, which starred Peter Capaldi. He also worked on Amazon sci-fi series The Feed and Rob Lowe cop drama Wild Bill.
It’s an interesting mix of Brits and Americans, most of whom have some experience working with streamers and many of whom have shepherded projects in the sci-fi/fantasy space.
We’ve heard that the group of writers were commissioned by Max to create pitches for a series reflecting their take on the IP. Rowling is understood to be involved in this pitching process. The trio will be able to hone in on their pitches for the next couple of months, with a decision on who gets the job expected in June.
When will the Harry Potter series be released?
The series is expected to be on air in 2026, according to Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav.
“We’ve not been shy about our excitement around Harry Potter,” Zaslav told Wall Street analysts on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call. “I was in London a few weeks ago with Casey [Bloys, CEO of HBO] and Channing [Dungey, chairperson of Warner Bros Television] and we spent some real time with JK and her team,” he enthused. “Both sides just thrilled to be reigniting this franchise. Our conversations were great.”
Given the results on that earnings call, WBD needs Harry Potter’s magic sooner rather than later.
Ditto J.K. Rowling, whose production company posted a 74% drop in profits in 2022. That rebounded somewhat after the stage version of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child proved to be a post-pandemic crowd pleaser. The author got a $10.5 million paycheck for it in 2023.
The success of the stage show demonstrates that there’s still an appetite for Hogwarts-related content. Likewise the massive hit that is Hogwarts Legacy, which became the bestselling video game of 2023, moving 22 million units. (That’s fantastic, but for comparison Rowling’s seven bestselling Harry Potter books have moved 600M copies worldwide.)
At a Goldman Sachs conference last year, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav made pointed out the need for more Hogwarts magic explicitly. Ignoring the Harry-less Fantastic Beasts films, the CEO insisted the boy wizard presents a huge opportunity, claiming that the IP has been “underused” of late.
“We haven’t done anything with Harry Potter for more than a decade,” he said, before going on to note that when one examines the performance of Warner Bros. over the last 20 years without accounting for it’s big three — Potter, Lord of the Rings and DC — the company’s performance is “relatively flat.”
Zaslav called that type of big-ticket IP “one of the big differentiators of this company.” And he seems to be counting on it to make a big difference.
“When you put those franchises in, it’s the best-performing studio in the world. We need to deploy our best capital, and we need to do it with the best creative people in the world,” he said.
How to watch the series
It will, of course, be on Max once the series is ready. The service has three price tiers: Max Ad Light, which goes for $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year and allows two concurrent streams; Max Ad Free will be priced at $15.99 a month, or $149.99 a year, and will also allow two concurrent streams; and Max Ultimate Ad Free which costs $19.99 a month, or $199.99 a year, and allows access to four concurrent streams.
In addition, WBD’s other current epic literary adaptation, House of the Dragon, is available not only on the company’s streaming service, but also to cable subscribers on HBO. The Potter series will follow suit, according to execs. So if you have HBO via your cable provider, you’re all set.
Which actors are starring in the series? Are any of the original Harry Potter stars returning?
There will be new actors playing the series’ main characters, but no one has been cast yet. Warner Bros. TV Group Chairman Channing Dungey said recently that that casting will come after they find a showrunner.
As for that, Warner Bros. is very likely looking to cast young actors, given that they’re proceeding through Rowling’s books in order. “The tricky part is the first two books, where the kids are on the younger end, around 11 or 12,” said Dungey of the casting process.
“We have been trying to be very close to the vest,” said Bloys. “We haven’t gone out to agencies. We have our own internal process where we’ve been thinking about people but we have not wanted to go out into the world. Now that the news is out there…we’ll start going out to the business.”
As for a return of any of the film franchise’s stars — like Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson or Rupert Grint — never say never. It would certainly be a PR boost for the series and, while new actors will be cast in the primary roles, there are always flashforwards or the currently en vogue multiverse plot ploy that could create space for more familiar faces in the series.
But Daniel Radcliffe has said he is fine with sitting on the sidelines.
“My understanding is that they’re trying to very much start fresh and I’m sure whoever is making them will want to make their own mark on it and probably not want to have to figure out how to get old Harry to cameo in this somewhere,” Radcliffe told ComicBook.com. “So I’m definitely not seeking it out in any way. But I do wish them, obviously, all the luck in the world and I’m very excited to have that torch passed. But I don’t think it needs me to physically pass it.”
Another longtime Potter player who likely won’t be involved is David Yates, who directed the last four movies, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) and Deathly Hallows Part One and Two (2010 and 2011). In addition, Yates took on the Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts trilogy. He says there has been no conversation about his involvement with the series. And it sounds like he’s ok with that.
“Huge affection and a lovely group of people I worked with,” Yates told Deadline. “But we haven’t had a conversation since we finished it.”
“It’s been about ‘Let’s just park it, and be done for a while,'” he said of the Potter franchise.
“Never say never, I would say, but I’m excited about moving on,” he said.
— Max (@StreamOnMax) April 12, 2023
Will J.K. Rowling be involved in the new Harry Potter TV series?
Yes. A deal for J.K. Rowling’s involvement in the series had been the biggest hurdle in its path to the screen: The author has creative control over any exploitation of her work. That agreement was finalized in 2023.
Rowling and longtime confederates Neil Blair and Ruth Kenley-Letts are exec producing, so she is expected to be involved in the decision-making on the series. David Heyman, who developed the films, was talks to do the same. Rowling’s Brontë Film and TV is producing with Warner Bros. Television. Brontë Film and TV was founded by Rowling and her literary agent, Neil Blair, in 2012.
“Max’s commitment to preserving the integrity of my books is important to me, and I’m looking forward to being part of this new adaptation which will allow for a degree of depth and detail only afforded by a long form television series,” said Rowling in a statement.
Since Warners launched its streaming service, there’s always been a goal to exploit Warners’ biggest franchise for streaming. Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav, taking the reigns after the merger last year, met with Rowling several times in the UK. He’s even spoken up in support of the author, who has been involved in an ongoing controversy over her comments on transgender issues. Asked about the streaming event about those controversies, Bloys demurred.
“No, I don’t think this is the forum [to discuss that],” he said. “That’s a very online conversation, very nuanced and complicated and not something we’re going to get into.”
“Our priority is what’s on the screen,” Bloys continued. “Obviously, the Harry Potter story is incredibly affirmative and positive and about love and self-acceptance. That’s our priority — what’s on screen.”
As for how close the author will be to the series, Bloys said, “[Rowling] will be involved. She’s an executive producer on the show. Her insights are going to be helpful on that.”
He was clear, however, that WBD wasn’t entirely dependent on Rowling for the project.
“The TV show is new and we’re excited about that. But, remember, we’ve been in the Potter business for 20 years. This is not a new decision for us, we’re very comfortable being in the Potter business.”
How much will the series cost to produce?
“You know we make shows at this scale with House of the Dragon, Game of Thrones,” said Bloys. “I imagine will be that scale or higher. The shorter answer is whatever it takes to make a quality show.”
Per Deadline reporting, House of the Dragon cost nearly $200 million and was the subject of HBO’s biggest marketing campaign ever, valued at over $100M in media spend (that’s a combo of ad spot value and hard cash shelled out). So fans can expect a similar outlay for the Potter series “or higher,” according to HBO/Max boss Bloys.
Will there be other Harry Potter-related projects?
“We’re free to do anything we want,” Zaslav has said, before hedging a bit. “Some areas we need to do with J.K., other areas we have the full ability to go forward. This is a full deployment on Max of Harry Potter. We can still develop other properties.”
It’s unclear where those boundaries lie, but it is clear that Warner Bros. Discovery would like more Potter. Since he took control of the merged company, Zaslav has stressed multiple times his focus on franchises, with mining the Harry Potter IP identified as a top priority.
Deadline understands that there may also be an opportunity for more than one of the above-mentioned writers to be involved and that Max is open to the possibility of developing more than one idea based on Harry Potter.
How long has this been in the works?
Max and its then-parent company WarnerMedia started exploring a potential Harry Potter TV series a couple of years ago. At the time, Warner Bros. appointed Kids, Young Adult and Classics president Tom Ascheim to manage the Wizarding World and Potter franchises, which include theme parks, tours and the $9.1 billion-grossing theatrical library that spans the Harry Potter and spinoff Fantastic Beasts titles. Under that setup, Ascheim became WarnerMedia’s senior rep in its relationship with Rowling and her representatives, and exploratory conversations for a Max series got underway.
After the Discovery acquisition was completed a year ago, that unit was disbanded and Ascheim exited the company. However, the importance of the Harry Potter IP has only grown post-merger.
Zaslav spoke about his family’s own personal connection to the series.
“My wife and I, we read (the Harry Potter books) to each of our three kids,” said Zaslav, going off script at the Max announcement. “It’s really moving, for ten consecutive years, people will see Harry Potter on HBO; I mean it’s really something.”
Best of Deadline