Among TV distributors, Star Wars films are in high demand once they leave the theaters. Now, the complete Saga will have a new home on broadcast television. Today, Turner networks TNT and TBS announced an exclusive deal to become the basic-cable outlet for Star Wars on TV. The multiyear deal with Disney and Lucasfilm covers five of the first six Saga films, as well as three future installments.
Over the last few years, it’s gotten difficult to keep track of where to watch Star Wars on TV. Which broadcast network owns which films? And what about Netflix’s own deal with Disney? Let’s take a closer look.
Where to Watch Star Wars on TV
Thanks to its new deal with Disney and Lucasfilm, TNT owns the rights to broadcast all of the prequel trilogy and most of the original trilogy on TV. The only exception is that 20th Century Fox retains permanent distribution rights for Episode IV: A New Hope. “Permanent” literally means for eternity, so it seems that unlike what Master Yoda says, the future isn’t always in motion — at least in this case.
TNT is wasting no time in making use of its exclusive deal for Star Wars. Starting next Tuesday, September 20, TNT kicks off six consecutive nights of airing the Saga’s first six films. The multi-night TV sprint culminates in an all-day marathon on Saturday, September 25. Check your local listings for specific air times.
As for the newest installment of the Saga, The Force Awakens won’t be on TNT until early 2018. Starz still retains the exclusive distribution rights for The Force Awakens in the United States. However, the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which premieres this December, will arrive on TNT in 2019. That’s a long wait, but at least it means that the complete Saga will eventually be under one roof at TNT.
What About Netflix?
This year, Netflix became the only pay-TV distributor for new Disney films in the United States. Under its current deal, Netflix owns exclusive streaming rights for Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar movies starting with 2016 releases. Previously, Starz was the main pay-TV source for Disney content.
So, what does that mean for Star Wars? In actuality, part of the Saga is already on Netflix. Back in March 2014, Netflix became the exclusive subscription service for the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series, including its sixth and final season. Those episodes, entitled The Lost Missions, premiered on Netflix since Cartoon Network had previously pulled the entire TV show from the air.
However, it doesn’t seem like Netflix’s exclusive deal covers the films of the Saga that are already out. Starz still owns the distribution rights to The Force Awakens, so that won’t be on Netflix in the U.S. anytime soon. Nevertheless, Netflix users in Canada have had The Force Awakens since this July. The discrepancy is due to the fact that Disney made different deals for the film’s American and international distribution.
Netflix’s exclusive agreement for Star Wars kicks in beginning with this December’s Rogue One. Assuming that Netflix preserves its agreement with Disney, that means Rogue One and future Star Wars films will all end up on Netflix. I guess it’s time for me to rethink terminating my Netflix subscription.