Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.
saying it paid the rival media company for exclusive streaming rights to new “South Park” episodes, only for Paramount to put new content from the popular animated comedy on its own streaming service, Paramount+.
In the lawsuit, filed Friday in New York State Supreme Court, Warner Bros. Discovery said it paid more than $500 million in 2019 to exclusively stream new and existing “South Park” episodes on its HBO Max platform until 2025.
“South Park” airs on Comedy Central, a cable network owned by Paramount.
Warner Bros. Discovery said it was assured that the deal would give it exclusive streaming rights to at least 333 episodes, which suggested three new seasons with 10 episodes each. It said in the complaint that it has received fewer new “South Park” episodes than that. It also said “South Park” specials have aired on Paramount+ that it did not receive.
“When Paramount decided to launch a new streaming platform of its own, its priorities changed drastically,” Warner Bros. Discover said in the complaint of Paramount+, which launched in 2021. The company alleged Paramount breached its contract “to prop up Paramount+ at the expense of Warner/HBO.”
Warner Bros. Discovery said it wanted “South Park” to attract new and younger subscribers to HBO Max. The company said it insisted on exclusive streaming rights as part of the deal. It also said it overpaid, because it calculated its bid based on having 30 new episodes and now expects to receive fewer. The company didn’t say how much money it was seeking in the lawsuit, but said it has damages of more than $200 million.
Paramount Global, formerly ViacomCBS Inc., struck a six-year deal in 2021 with “South Park” creators
for 14 “South Park” movies for Paramount+, in addition to six new seasons of the TV show on Comedy Central. The company paid Messrs. Stone and Parker $900 million in the deal, the Journal reported.
Having the rights to popular shows can help streaming companies differentiate from the competition and attract more viewers. Media companies have ended licensing agreements to bring popular shows to their own streaming services.
for example, lost the streaming rights to “The Office” in 2021, so that
new service, Peacock, could stream the comedy.
A spokeswoman for HBO Max repeated allegations made in the lawsuit, including that Paramount breached its contract.
A Paramount spokeswoman said the claims are without merit, and the company will demonstrate that through the legal process.
“South Park,” which first aired on Comedy Central in 1997, follows four troublemaking boys in a small town. The show has won four Emmys, and turned cartoon characters Cartman and Kenny into household names.
Write to Joseph Pisani at [email protected]
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