• Ofer Zeevy

Potter spells magic again for Warner Brothers, but how did the viewers respond?

Updated: Jul 7

Obliviate! Diffindo! Incendio! Lumos!

New words in the English language? Well, kind of. These are spell words, and they mean, in respective order, “erase the target’s memory”, “used to precisely cut an object”, “conjures flames” and “illuminates the caster’s wand”. Invented by J.K. Rowling, first for the Harry Potter seven-book series and used later in the eight hugely successful films, they were part of the amazing adventure that captured the hearts and minds of millions all over the world.

Photo of platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter

Although the movie series ended in 2011, entertainment studio Warner Brothers is still trying to milk the franchise as much as it can. A spin-off series serving as a prequel to “Harry Potter”, “Fantastic beasts”, already saw two films issued, in 2016 and 2018, with a third release scheduled for April 2022. And in order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first film, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, Warner Brothers streaming service HBO Max, a part of HBO, aired a two-hour television reunion show on New year’s day. The special, “Harry Potter 20th anniversary: return to Hogwarts”, featured the three main series stars, Daniel Redcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint (Harry, Hermione, and Ron, respectively) as well as all other main characters. That included actor Ralph Fiennes, who played the main antagonist in the series, Lord Voldemort (I guess we can mention his name now without feeling scared….).

Warner Brothers, which invested some $1.2 billion in the production of the eight films, saw them make a combined $7.7 billion in revenues. So it was only appropriate to use the still very strong “Harry Potter” brand and feature the special on its HBO Max. By the end of 2021, HBO and HBO Max had a combined total of 73.8 million paying global subscribers. While on January 1st, 2022, only the USA subscribers were able to watch the reunion special, HBO confirmed that the special would be available to watch in all of its other territories.

HBO Max is trending in the very competitive waters of the streaming world. It has positioned itself as a boutique vs. the “supermarket with many different programs” that is Netflix. So it was an expected move for the service to use one of Warner Brothers' top brands this millennium for producing and airing the show. And viewers responded whole-heartedly.

Affogata tracked viewers' feedback for the special between Dec. 22nd and up until Jan. 5th. During the week leading up to the actual air date, traffic was building up momentum which saw a large peak on January 1st. A third of the 33,332 total mentions for the full two weeks were recorded on the day the special aired. Positive mentions ruled 5:1 over the negative ones with an overall tone of the posts being emotional and nostalgic. Such tone showed great sentiment for the books, the films, and the special, with 12.5% admitting they cried while watching the show on New Year’s Day.

The special brought yet more interesting insights. There were quite a few mentions of “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal parks while others discussed merchandising and gifts related to the series. Avid fans also managed to find and report mistakes that the special featured and HBO quickly responded by fixing those mistakes for later airings. Close to 1% of the total conversations mentioned the specific mistakes, such as an Emma Roberts picture appearing instead of Emma Watson’s, while others discussed how the media reported both the mistakes and the fact that they were fixed. This whole affair shows the importance of program/product makers staying tuned for what their viewers/customers feel and want, and how tracking such intel in real-time can truly help improve the product fast.

Finally, viewers' feedback regarding the “Harry Potter 20th anniversary special” could not have avoided dealing with the J.K Rowling controversy. J.K Rowling stirred up controversy in 2020 as she shared her opinion on Twitter, causing some in the LGBTQ community to accuse her of transphobia. Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint publicly distanced themselves from such comments and stood with the trans community. Rowling was not featured in the reunion special due to her publicly criticized tweets and HBO used some old footage of her instead.

There have been strong reactions to this issue from both sides of the fence. Many commented that it was wrong not to invite her to take part in the reunion since she was the one who created the “Harry Potter” world. Then there were those who felt happy not seeing her being interviewed for the special, while some were even calling to boycott and not watch the special at all so that no further income goes into Rowling’s pockets.

Affogata continues to track, monitor, and analyze viewers' and customers’ conversations from all over the open web. Their unbiased real-time opinions matter to companies that want to stay close to their customers, act fast upon their feedback and maintain market position and positive brand image. Affogata bridges that gap between customers and companies, as it takes such unstructured data of millions of conversations online and turns them into structured data with actionable insights for decision-makers.


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