The Walt Disney Company is seeking to buy back TV rights to the Star Wars films from Turner Broadcasting, who air the movies on their networks TBS and TNT, but Turner may not want to sell. Disney sold the rights to Turner in 2016 for a reported $275 million, in a deal that extends until 2024. The deal not only covers the original trilogy and the prequels, it also includes the newer Star Wars films beginning with 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Disney of course acquired Lucasfilm and all the Star Wars movies in 2014 for a reported $4 billion, and has since gone on to produce four more movies with plans for a fifth to be released in 2019 (and still more beyond that). In addition to the movies, Disney plans to produce a Star Wars live-action TV series to run on their new streaming service, which is set to debut next year. Disney also wants to offer the original Star Wars movies on their service, but unfortunately they struck the deal with Turner and now must wait until 2024.
Bloomberg reports that Disney is trying to be proactive when it comes to the Star Wars TV rights they gave up, and have had preliminary meetings with Turner about reacquiring the films. However, sources tell Bloomberg that Turner does not want to give back the rights without significant compensation. Turner reportedly seeks money as well as programming to replace the films. The talks reportedly have not advanced beyond the preliminary stages.
The popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu has convinced Disney to get in on the action by launching their own such endeavor. Competing with already-established services like Netflix will be difficult, but Disney has one huge advantage in that they already possess a massive catalog of titles, and are always producing more highly desirable name-brand content. The Star Wars brand is of course central to all Disney’s streaming plans, so it’s understandable that they are now regretting their decision to sell off TV rights to the movies. It’s also understandable that Turner is holding out for the best deal they can get.
When it comes to future Star Wars content for theaters as well as streaming, Disney finds itself in a bit of a bind after the box office failure of this year’s Solo: A Star Wars Story. The studio had reportedly been planning multiple more standalone films, including separate ones centered on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett, but those plans seem to be in limbo. One recent rumor suggested Disney might hold off on producing Obi-Wan Kenobi as a feature film, instead making it specifically for their streaming service. Disney is free to create all the new Star Wars content they want for their streaming endeavor, but their own older Star Wars movies are not available unless they can come up with a package that satisfies Turner.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019