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Why Disney doesn't own the streaming rights to all the 'Star Wars' movies

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) escape from the Death Star in “Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.”
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) escape from the Death Star in “Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.”
Lucasfilm Ltd.

SALT LAKE CITY — Disney may need to reach out to The Force if it wants its streaming rights to "Star Wars" movies back.

Bloomberg reported Thursday that the Walt Disney Company has tried to buy the rights to its “Star Wars” movies back from AT&T Inc.’s Turner Broadcasting so that it can include those movies in its own streaming service, which is set to launch next year.

But people close to the situation told Bloomberg that Turner rejected Disney’s “preliminary inquiry,” and talks haven’t advanced.

Turner would want “financial considerations and programming to replace the lost films,” according to Bloomberg.

Right now, Disney is slated to launch its streaming service next year with new and original “Star Wars” content. The company hopes it will include all the “Star Wars” films.

Disney sold the rights to the films to Turner in 2016 before the company planned to launch its own streaming service. Turner bought the rights to the six “Star Wars” films released between 1977 and 2005 for $275 million.

That deal does not include the four “Star Wars” films released since Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, or any future movies.

The deal reportedly lasts until 2024, meaning the original and prequel trilogies may not appear on Disney’s streaming service until then.

“That's somewhat of a blow for Disney,” according to Ars Technica. “The Star Wars franchise features heavily in what we know so far about its plans for the streaming service, with live action and animated series already in the works. But for the first five years of its existence, it won't be able to stream any of the first six Star Wars films themselves.”

Disney’s failure to recapture the “Star Wars” rights points to a budding problem among companies when it comes to streaming services, according to The Verge.

Companies like Warner Bros. and Disney have deep back catalogs of content, which can be a positive for them when they start their streaming services.

But, as is the case with “Star Wars,” companies may not hold the rights to broadcast those properties, having surrendered them to other streaming services (like Netflix or Hulu) or other companies, like Turner.

And other outlets — like Netflix, Hulu and HBO — have no incentive to sell those rights back since the original companies would become their rivals.

“As the number of streaming services climbs in the coming years — practically everyone is looking into creating their own — the race is on to acquire subscribers with the best catalog possible, because there’s a limit to how many platforms a person or family will subscribe to, especially if they’re only checking out one or two exclusive shows,” according to The Verge.