Warner Bros. Discovery Files ‘South Park’ Content Licensing Lawsuit Against Paramount
February 24, 2023
Warner Bros. Discovery Feb. 24 filed a content licensing lawsuit against Paramount Global alleging the media company reneged on its obligation to produce 30 new episodes of the Comedy Central animated series “South Park” as part of a $500 million distribution deal signed in 2019 affording the HBO Max streaming platform exclusive access to the franchise’s entire 300-episode catalog.
The suit, filed in Supreme Court of the state of New York in the County of New York, contends just 14 episodes over the new Seasons 24, 25 and 26 have been produced and delivered to HBO Max as of Feb. 9. In addition, the suit alleges that following Paramount’s separate $900 million Comedy Central renewal deal in 2021 with “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone for Seasons 27-30 — 14 special episodes, including so-called “super size” episodes (“South Park: The Streaming Wars Part 1,” and “South Park: The Streaming Wars Part 2”) were exclusively earmarked for the rival Paramount+ streaming service.
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“Paramount, South Park Digital Studios and MTV Entertainment … engaged in an illicit scheme to unfairly and deceptively divert to its nascent streaming platform [Paramount+] ‘South Park’ content belonging exclusively to Warner/HBO,” read the complaint.
With catalog episodes of “Friends,” “The Office” and “The Big Bang Theory,” among others, commanding premium valuation across linear TV and streaming channels, “South Park” is no different. The series, which debuted on Comedy Central in 1997, has earned five Emmy wins against 18 nominations. WBD paid Paramount $1.68 million per “South Park” episode.
WBD believes the new “South Park” episodes are more valuable than catalog shows, and that it overpaid for the distribution deal when factoring in the missing new content. The company is seeking unspecified punitive damages and legal fees.
In a statement, Paramount said the allegations are without merit and that it looks forward to “demonstrating so through the legal process.”
“We also note that Paramount continues to adhere to the parties’ contract by delivering new ‘South Park’ episodes to HBO Max, despite the fact that Warner Bros. Discovery has failed and refused to pay license fees that it owes to Paramount for episodes that have already been delivered, and which HBO Max continues to stream,” Paramount said in the statement.