In a recent development, Disney has expanded the availability of its live-action Star Wars movies beyond its streaming platform, Disney+. These 11 iconic films will now be accessible on Disney’s linear networks, which include broadcast network ABC and various cable channels like FX networks and Freeform, starting this month. This shift is the result of a reworked domestic licensing agreement between Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery’s Turner Networks, which will continue to offer the entire collection of Star Wars movies.
According to Deadline, this change comes as the seven-year licensing deal for the initial six Star Wars movies, comprising George Lucas’ original trilogies, came to an end in September. The newer films have staggered expiration dates over the next few years. The new multi-year agreement ensures that the terms for all 11 movies will align for both Disney and the Turner networks, concluding simultaneously. However, the fate of the domestic linear TV rights for this film slate beyond this period remains uncertain.
In 2016, Turner secured a high-profile deal with Disney for a package of 10 Star Wars titles, including classics like The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as newer releases such as The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. At the time, this deal was valued at $250 million and was a separate arrangement from Fox’s licensing of the original 1977 film, A New Hope, which they controlled. After Disney’s acquisition of Fox assets in 2019, the entire Star Wars library fell under the Disney umbrella, leading to the comprehensive licensing deal encompassing all 11 titles.
The Disney Star Wars linear rights debut is scheduled for Saturday, October 7, on FX, which had actively pursued this package seven years ago. The event will feature a marathon of the original Star Wars trilogy, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, along with the 2008 animated film, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which was not included in the Turner package.
These movies initially premiered on TNT in September 2016, accompanied by a six-night launch event that showcased the first six Star Wars movies. The rights for these films, under the original agreement, have now concluded as of September. For the remaining movies, their terms began once they became available to Turner Networks after their theatrical and premium release windows.
It’s worth noting that Disney had reportedly attempted to repurchase the rights, specifically for linear basic cable and companion ad-supported on-demand, from Turner Networks’ parent company in 2019. This move came after Disney announced Disney+ as the exclusive streaming platform for all things Star Wars and Marvel. Eventually, the two parties reached an agreement, allowing the linear rights to remain with Turner while Disney+ gained access to the complete Star Wars film library within its first year of operation.