Is Harry Potter Coming to TV At Last?
If you believe what you read in The Wall Street Journal and The Daily Mail, it seems that Warner-Discovery’s new CEO, David Zaslav, is determined to do all he can to bring the Hogwarts adventures to the ‘small screen.’ I am very skeptical and the man who has been tracking this subject for close to a decade, Patricio Tarantino at TheRowlingLibrary.com, thinks it is unlikely as well. We each arrived at our verdict of “very unlikely,” though, from a different starting point and line of reasoning so let’s review the published evidence and the facts neglected in these reports.
The published evidence, for starters, are little more than conjecture. The Daily Mail story, WarnerDiscovery’s anti-woke new CEO David Zaslav plans to ‘un-cancel’ JK Rowling by asking her to help produce new Harry Potter shows for HBO Max, published on 19 May, asserts that Vaslav “plans to sit down with Rowling to discuss new Harry Potter-related content for his HBO Max streamer.” It then reviews Rowling’s recent history:
That [ambition] comes despite Rowling facing mounting criticism over her view on transgender people, with HBO Max ‘canceling’ her from a Harry Potter reunion special it broadcast on New Year’s Day.
The author, who launched the franchise with her first book in 1997, only appeared in archival footage from the creation of the first movie in 2000.
Rowling, 56, has faced condemnation for her alleged transphobia for claiming that transgender women should be banned from some women-only spaces, and that children are being encouraged to transition without proper evidence they’re suffering from gender dysphoria.
But she has also received a groundswell of support from others who say her views are fair – and that she shouldn’t be threatened or abused for sharing them.
‘War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. The Penised Individual Who Raped You Is a Woman,’ Rowling tweeted in December, above a link to a Times story reporting that police will mark rape suspects as women if they identify as such.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that a performing arts school in England had removed Rowling’s name from one of its houses after ‘requests from students and staff.’
Any rapprochement with the billionaire British author is likely to infuriate progressive staff at HBO Max, but Zaslav seems unlikely to bow to woke pressure. …
Ari Emanuel, who heads up talent firm Endeavor, told the Journal: ‘It’s the first time they’ve had a leader there who is challenging them and asking the right questions. When there are things he wants, he goes after them in a very aggressive manner.’
The newly installed chief is particularly focused on HBO Max, a successful offering that has added 13 million subscribers from last year for a total of 77 million paying customers.
That reference to the “Journal” turns out to be significant. When I saw this Mail article, I wrote to TRL’s Tarantino, a Potter Pundit who tracks these rumors and who has more connections with Warner/Discovery than any other fan I know. He responded that the Mail piece and other click-bait articles were grounded only in an aside made in a Wall Street Journal profile of Vaslav:
A lot of media (including Daily Mail) got this piece up, some of them even published stories saying “WB confirms Harry Potter Tv Show”.
The truth is different. All of this started with a Vaslav profile piece published by The Wall Street Journal: There’s a New Media Mogul Tearing Up Hollywood: ‘Zas Is Not Particularly Patient.’
This is the paragraph that everyone uses as a source (and the only one mentioning Harry Potter):
At the same time, Mr. Zaslav is looking to make fresh “Harry Potter”-related content for HBO Max—Warner Bros. made all the wizarding franchise’s movies—people familiar with his thinking said, and plans to meet with creator J.K. Rowling in the coming weeks to discuss the matter.
For me the key part of this is “people familiar with his thinking said”, which in my opinion is all speculation. And at the same time, this is nothing “new”: every WB CEO and all their directors have wanted to do more Harry Potter products (tv shows, films, etc). It is true that the characteristics of Zaslav may improve the relationship with J.K. Rowling, but I think we are still far away and nothing that will be solved in one meeting (if it’s true that they are going to meet soon).
Summarizing, I think media outlets are exaggerating this news a lot.
Vaslav’s moves at Netflix and at CNN prompt the “anti-woke new CEO” sobriquet in the Mail headline, but he is much less “anti-woke” than “pro-profit,” and the recent disasters at Disney are lessons Vaslav didn’t need to see play out to have learned. His comment, “It’s called ‘show business,’ not ‘show family’,” reflects his priorities are not ESG political correctness and so-called “social justice” issues but creating value for shareholders. The man reportedly makes $246 million per annum which creates a certain pressure to raise the stock price of Warner-Discovery. Landing a new Potter franchise for HBO Max would certainly go a long way to do that.
As Tarantino notes, however, this “news” is little more than speculation spun into click-bait. The wizards at The Daily Mail and other Fleet Street operations seems to have been, “Hey, Vaslav isn’t all in with the transgender madness, Rowling was canceled by that crowd, maybe his need for new HBO content to win subscribers means he will give Rowling an offer she cannot refuse and bring her in from the cold.” The Journal‘s report that he hoped to meet with Rowling soon in itself means next to nothing.
The facts in play, and please correct me if I’m wrong in this tabulation because it really is not something I follow closely, appear to be:
(1) Warner-Discovery owns the copyright to produce adaptations of and products associated with the Harry Potter novels and ancillary texts (Fantastic Beasts, Quidditch through the Ages, Beedle).
(2) Rowling has something like a veto over what exactly they can do, a power I’m guessing largely one derived from her relationship with the Barracuda Barrister Neil Blair, who before becoming Rowling’s ‘Blair Partnership’ right hand, was “Head of Business Affairs, Europe, for Warner Bros.” Unlike Christopher Little, who negotiated Rowling’s first agreements with Warner-Discovery, Blair has every angle covered and nothing will get down in terms of a teevee show for HBO Max without Rowling’s okay consequently.
(3) Rowling owns a teevee production company, Bronte Film and Television, a group that has successfully created adaptations of her post Potter work for the BBC. She has rebuffed offers from Hollywood about her Cormoran Strike mysteries in order to keep copyright and full control of that franchise in house.
(4) Because of her charity commitments, Rowling is not one to turn down a huge payday from Hollywood, especially if it seems she may lose creative control of her work, whence the Fantastic Beasts film franchise.
(5) Rowling is disgusted with Discovery-Warner, its leadership, producers, and actors and actresses, especially those most closely associated with her in the Potter and Beasts films, for their cowardly kowtowing to the transgender mob in the last three years.
That last ‘fact,’ of course, is rank speculation. I think it more than credible, however, given her distancing of herself from everything related to promoting Secrets of Dumbledore’s release, to include a flurry of tweets and a ‘ladies lunch’ in the weeks of the premiere in support of feminist causes contra transgender overreach.
So, if Vaslav does actually meet with Rowling (and Blair) in the coming weeks, I think little will come of it.
If there will be teevee adaptations of the Hogwarts Saga, it will not be a series made by Warner-Discovery. Blair might try to negotiate a deal for Bronte and a CGI firm to film stories for HBO, but I don’t see Rowling letting go of creative control again. Not to her “friends” and “partners” that threw her under the bus. This lady has a long memory.
The only way I see for Warner-Discovery to get a teevee show for HBO Max is if they do for Rowling what Disney did with Steven Spielberg for the full rights to his future Star Wars material. Buying LucasFilm cost the Mouse $4.05 billion dollars, money they recouped in short order. If Vaslav is serious about making Potter adaptations, then Warner-Discovery is going to have to pay top dollar because Blair is at the table, perhaps as much as $10 billion.
Why would Rowling agree to that?
Lumos and Volant Charities would be funded forever — and she would be done with a franchise and fandom that is no longer a great pleasure to her. Rowling might also enjoy watching Warner-Discovery try to create the magic she does and no one is likely to be able to perform.
Your thoughts? Let me know in the comment boxes below!