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Tom Ascheim to oversee Harry Potter Franchise at Warner Bros: What does it mean?

January 22, 2021

Variety reports that Tom Ascheim has been promoted and its new role at Warner Bros will be to oversee the Harry Potter and Wizarding World franchise, acting as a nexus between the studio and J.K. Rowling (and her office/reps at The Blair Partnership). Although the official announcement does not reveal anything about future plans, it quotes Ascheim saying “I look forward to going even further in exploring and expanding all of the opportunities we have in this incredible world.”, which sounds exciting. But what does it mean?

The first thing that comes to the mind of a Harry Potter fan is a TV show or series. The two biggest franchises of this century (alongside Harry Potter, if you want to), are Marvel and Star Wars. And they both have their own TV shows on Disney+: The Mandalorian and WandaVision (so far, with more to come). Star Wars is, for the time being, the only other franchise that has an exclusive area in a theme park, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge both at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World). Marvel will join Star Wars with the Avengers Campus, a themed area in almost all Disney Parks that will connect attractions and experiences around the world. But at present Harry Potter is the only franchise with two lands in the same theme park resort, one at Universal Studios Florida and the other one at Island of Adventures. But with stage plays, exhibitions, a role-play videogame coming, and more, the only thing that is missing from the Wizarding World is a regular TV show (well, probably a comic book too). But does that depend only on Warner Bros?

Although it has been signed more than twenty years ago, the original contract between J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. remains private. However, it was widely reported several times that Warner Bros. could not continue the story (or any story based on it) without previous approval by the author. This idea was reinforced when in 2013 the Fantastic Beasts films were announced: the studio had to make a new deal with Jo, not only to have her as a writer but also as a creative partner. Without Rowling, Warner Bros. couldn’t have done any films from the Wizarding World.

With Warner Bros. making a big effort to promote HBO Max, it is only natural they want to include one of their biggest franchises in their new on-demand platform. It would be a shame if they could not exploit any more of the Harry Potter magic. So, to do that, are they obligated to have it written by J.K. Rowling? Well, not exactly. There is a story that Rowling did not write, but it was launched as a canonical Harry Potter story. She signed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as a co-author, but it was written by Jack Thorne, and she worked more as a consultant than anything else. A TV show based on the Wizarding World (Marauders? The Founders?) written by another author (such as Steve Kloves) and having Rowling’s approval could work as well, legally and creatively-wise.

But we are missing a point if we only focus on a potential TV show. The reality is that HBO Max has already confirmed that their 2021 films will be released in theatres and on their platform simultaneously. And they will also feature Zack Snyder’s Justice League – an original movie that will be released in four parts as a streaming series. Do you see where we are going? Given the box office results and reviews that The Crimes of Grindelwald received, it wouldn’t be that crazy that the next films would be moved to the HBO Max platform instead of theatres. There were rumours, as well, about pivoting the movies into a TV show about Gellert Grindelwald (which, honestly, would make more sense). So the expanding opportunities that Ascheim mentioned could be not just new stories, but moving current products to platforms that fit Warner Bros.’s best interests. But obviously, with J.K. Rowling’s approval first.

Remember that in 2014, Warner Bros. created Harry Potter Global Franchise Development (HPGFD), an internal division aimed to oversee and develop all the Harry Potter products and related contents. However, this story insinuates that the studio shut down this division and moved all its responsibilities to Tom Aischem. According to Deadline, “the members of the HPGFD team will now become part of the Global Brands and Experiences team”, led by Pam Lifford, and they will work closely with Aischem.

Since Variety has broken the news, there were a few media outlets and online personalities who started to yell “Harry Potter will have a new TV show”. It is probable that in the future we will see more stories of the Wizarding World in new formats, and probably one of them will be on streaming services. But for now, everything remains the same and they are just rumours. Only time (or Mr. Ascheim) will tell what is coming next, and most importantly, when.

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