Warner Bros Discovery is suing Paramount over South Park deal

Warner Bros. Discovery is suing Paramount over ‘South Park’ deal

NEW YORK — Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. is suing Paramount Global, saying its competitor aired new episodes of the popular animated series South Park after Warner paid for the exclusive rights.

Warner signed a deal in 2019 paying more than $500 million for the rights to existing and new episodes of the irreverent show, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in New York state Supreme Court.

HBO Max, Warner’s streaming platform, was set to receive the first episodes of a new “South Park” season in 2020. However, the company was informed that the pandemic halted production, the lawsuit says.

Despite Warner’s exclusive rights to the show through 2025, the company alleges that South Park Digital Studios, which produces the shows and is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, offered Paramount two pandemic-themed specials, which they aired in September 2020 and March 2021.

The lawsuit alleges that the pandemic specials should have been offered to Warner as part of the original contract. The move, which the lawsuit describes as “verbal trickery,” propelled fans of the show to the competing Paramount platform. Almost all episodes of South Park will premiere on Comedy Central, one of Paramount’s cable channels, the lawsuit alleges.

The show’s creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who created the show in 1997 and oversee the franchise, were not named in the lawsuit.

Acquiring streaming rights to “South Park” is a competitive process as the potentially lucrative market attracts more subscribers, advertisers and a loyal fan base, which Warner’s lawsuit says is primarily made up of young adults.

The 24-page court filing also cites a $900 million deal in 2021 between a Paramount subsidiary and South Park Digital Studios for exclusive content on the streaming service Paramount Plus, which launched the same year.

Warner claims the deal was an intentional “scheme” between Paramount, its subsidiary MTV Entertainment Studios, and South Park Digital Studios to “redirect as much of the new South Park content as possible to Paramount Plus to power this burgeoning streaming platform.” to promote”.

Warner paid $1,687,500 per episode and claims it has not yet received all episodes covered by the contract, resulting in more than $200 million in damages.

Paramount Global did not immediately respond to emails from The Associated Press seeking comment on the lawsuit.