Paramount is being taken to court by Warner Bros. Discovery over “South Park“. WBD accuses Paramount of going back on a $500 million dollar licensing deal made in 2019. Specifically for putting “South Park” specials (and other content) on Paramount+ and not HBO Max. Paramount representatives claim otherwise. According to them, here’s no violation of the deal, and Warner Bros. has refused to pay licensing fees on episodes that do stream on HBO Max.
It sounds like a pretty messy lawsuit, further complicated by the massive changes within Warner Bros. Discovery in recent months. Back in 2019, “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone held open bids for exclusive streaming rights to their show. Warner Bros. paid $500 million to exclusively stream the current episode library as well as the three upcoming seasons.
But recent episodes have been streaming on Paramount+ and not HBO Max. WBD alleges the launch of Paramount’s own streaming service was nefarious. “A multi-year scheme to unfairly take advantage of Warner/HBO by breaching its contract and stealing content,” WBD says. They also claim the terms for episodic content were warped as a means of getting over the contract’s rules.
There’s Messy, and Then There’s This
In 2021, Parker and Stone signed a $900 million deal with MTV for new “South Park” content to stream exclusively on Paramount+ for the next five years. Per the deal, 14 new movies would appear on Paramount’s streaming service, starting with two that year. The lawsuit accuses MTV of labeling the content as “movies” instead of “episodes” on purpose. Specifically as a way to circumvent the deal with Warner Bros. Discovery.
“Rather than honor its obligation to Warner/HBO, SPDS, acting in concert with Paramount and MTV, engaged in a campaign of verbal trickery designed to circumvent the terms of the 2019 agreement,” the lawsuit alleges. “To accomplish this, Defendants used grammatical sleight-of-hand, characterizing new content as ‘movies,’ ‘films,’ or ‘events’ to side-step SPDS’s contractual obligations.”
This entire mess was brought forth when Paramount+ aired what were being called “Pandemic Specials” exclusively. Due to some messy communication between SPDS and WB, it continues to get even more complicated. Paramount claims there’s no breach of contract, and that they haven’t gone against contract restrictions.
Meanwhile WBD apparently hasn’t paid, and refuses to pay, licensing on episodes they already received and streamed. Representatives for Paramount say the company 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.”
Lawsuits like this can take years to untangle and get sorted. Whether we’ll see a settlement for “South Park” rights remains to be seen.