HBO's Harry Potter Series Will Destroy Every Streaming Record Imaginable

Joseph Meinert
February 28, 2024
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There was an uproar upon the announcement that HBO would produce a new series based on the original Harry Potter novels, essentially remaking the beloved movie franchise. Most of the commentary was not too damning, and in my estimation, was mainly rooted in nostalgia. A vast number of the comments sounded something along the lines of, "Daniel Radcliff will always be MY Harry Potter." Aside from that, many are speculating how the series, which was already adequately covered in the movies would be materially better or different enough from the movies for the series to be a success. Isn't this exactly what a lot of people say is wrong with today's Hollywood, constantly remaking things that are perfectly fine? While I agree with that general sentiment, I strongly disagree with the takes being made on HBO's Harry Potter adaptation and think the series will obliterate any and all currently standing streaming records. Here's why:

Three separate streaming services currently own the rights to the three biggest fantasy franchises in the world: Star Wars (Disney+), Lord of the Rings (Amazon), and Harry Potter (MAX). To make it simple. These three giants have made two choices with their strategies for their behemoth IPs; coherence vs. quantity and existing vs. original stories/characters. HBO and MAX are third to bat with their franchise and they've had the benefit of seeing how Disney and Amazon's strategies have worked out.

For Disney, they've chosen the route of quantity and original stories and characters. On the quantity side of things, it seems as if Lucasfilm and Disney are green lighting everything. Currently, there are at least eight projects in development. This can be quite daunting for those who had hoped for and really only ever asked for a great, quality movie every couple years that built on the story and the universe. Instead, we are meant to subscribe to Disney+ for the rest of our lives and tune in every week just to understand what's going on. Indeed, one of the biggest complaints of the current season of The Mandalorian is Mando's reconvening with Grogu off-screen in one of the other series that many did not feel compelled to watch. I couldn't even tell you which series that was.

On the source material, there have been proponents inside Lucasfilm - mainly Dave Filoni - who have tried to build on characters and ideas from the days of George Lucas, but overwhelmingly they've chosen the route of original source material. This has been evident since Disney's first Star Wars project where they killed off Han Solo. Since then, Luke and Leia have also been killed off and Disney has doubled down on their Rey character - who has seen mixed reviews - by announcing a new film (and potential trilogy?) with her as the main character.

This combination of quantity, which is pure strategy to get people to subscribe to Disney+, and abandoning what the original fanbase would have liked to see has left Star Wars in a tattered state. Plenty of people would say it's alive and well and are excited about all the new projects, but from what I've seen, there doesn't seem to be much of the original fanbase left. I'd say their subscription numbers are a testament to that. At the beginning of the year, it was announced that the streaming service lost 2.4 million subscribers from the previous quarter.

Turning to Amazon's strategy; they also decided to opt for an original story, but instead of the shotgun method of launching into a half dozen projects, attempted to focus on one, very high budget series. Focusing on a single series was the right thought. Let's not get ahead of ourselves or create any incoherence between stories that are simultaneously being developed by different individuals. The thought draws me right back to Star Wars and how someone, like me, who was a massive fan and knows simple arithmetic, is pointing out how old the characters are supposed to be and how the timelines don't make sense, but the people in charge don't seem to care. The latter part of Amazon's strategy is where they went wrong. Again, new and/or altered characters from the source material is not what the fans want. The internet is rife with commentary about how Galadriel's personality and actions in The Rings of Power stray from whats seen in Tolkien's books. They utterly failed here and the numbers prove it. Only 37% of viewers finished Season 1 of the series. Yes, that's bad. Very bad.

This brings us to HBO and the reason that the new Harry Potter series will smash the records and bring millions of subscribers to MAX. In short, they're simply doing what has already been proven; they're taking the combination neither Disney nor Amazon did by focusing on one very well made series based on what they know people already love - a story that has sold over a half billion books and brought in billions at the box office. It won't be incoherent or intertwined with other series or movies that attempt to build a universe à la the MCU and it won't introduce or alter characters that would otherwise offend and chastise the audience. It's pretty straight forward and for the viewers like myself who do prefer we not just continuously remake things, we have to be a little honest; sometimes the remake is better and in this case, it doesn't erase the movies, it just gives us another take on them where, because it's not restricted to 2-3 hour chunks, we can actually explore and insert a lot more detail from the books. I wish HBO had the balls to do the same thing with Season 8 of Game of Thrones.

When you think about how this strategy could have been applied at Disney or Amazon, I think the Tolkien IP is the perfect example. Rather than conjure up some new story where you run the risk of abusing the source material and offending the original creator and his fanbase, why not rely on what's there and what the fans would like to see. Many people regard The Lord of The Rings trilogy to be the greatest film trilogy of all time, so for me, I wouldn't touch that. The Hobbit trilogy, on the other hand, wasn't met with as much praise. A faithful adaptation of the beloved novel paired with the high end production value seen in The Rings of Power would have done record numbers for Amazon. I have no doubt of that.

To conclude; I'm not really saying anything the faithful fans of these narrative universes have not always said. Rely on the source material. Do not confuse yourself or your writers with the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien or George Lucas. You are not the same.