Warner Bros. Discovery Sues Paramount Over ‘South Park’

WBD accused Paramount Global of violating the terms of a 2019 licensing agreement that placed the Comedy Central series on HBO Max.

In a rare attempt by Warner Bros. Discovery to add content to HBO Max, the company has filed a lawsuit against Paramount Global over the streaming rights to Comedy Central’s “South Park.” According to filings obtained by IndieWire, the suit was filed Friday in New York State Supreme Court and also targets Paramount subsidiaries MTV Entertainment Studios and South Park Digital Studios.

The lawsuit accuses Paramount Global, which also owns Comedy Central and “South Park,” of violating the terms of a 2019 licensing agreement between the two companies for the streaming rights to Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s long-running satirical animated series.

In a statement to IndieWire, a representative for Paramount Global said they believe the claims are “baseless” and accused WBD of failing to pay Paramount licensing fees for episodes streamed on HBO Max.

“We believe these allegations are without merit and look forward to making that point in the legal process,” the statement said. “We further note that Paramount continues to adhere to the parties’ agreement by delivering new South Park episodes to HBO Max despite Warner Bros. Discovery’s failure to pay Paramount license fees for such episodes , which have already been published. has been delivered and continues to air on HBO Max.”

The $500 million deal in 2019 brought the entirety of the “South Park” library, which currently includes more than 300 episodes and the 1999 film “Bigger, Longer & Uncut,” exclusively to HBO Max. New episodes of the series air on Comedy Central before debuting the following day on the WBD streamer. But in 2021, Paramount signed Parker and Stone to a $900 million deal that, in addition to renewing the show on Comedy Central for 30 seasons through 2027, also greenlit a series of 14 special episodes that will debut on their Paramount+ streamer. So far, four such specials have premiered on the streamer, including 2021’s “Post Covid” and last year’s “The Streaming Wars” two-parter.

In its lawsuit, Warner Bros. Discovery claims that these Paramount+ exclusives violate the terms of its license agreement and accuses Paramount of engaging in a “multi-year program” that was “obviously supported by Paramount+ at the expense of Warner/HBO.” .”

“We believe that Paramount and South Park Digital Studios have engaged in a multi-year program of unfair trade practices and deception, flagrantly and repeatedly violating our contract, which clearly granted HBO Max exclusive streaming rights to the existing library and the popular animated film for your new content. comedy, South Park,” a representative for HBO Max said in a statement to IndieWire.

According to the lawsuit, the 2019 deal was to air 30 episodes of the show’s upcoming seasons 24, 25 and 26 exclusively on HBO Max, along with a library of the show’s previous episodes. However, subsequent seasons, produced in conjunction with the Paramount+ specials, had far fewer episodes than previous seasons; Season 24 consisted of two episodes, while Season 25 and the ongoing Season 26 both consist of six episodes.

The suit alleges that the new episodes are more valuable than the old ones and that Paramount engaged in “verbal trickery” — including initially presenting the special episodes as “movies” — to avoid its obligations under the 2019 deal. The suit seeks monetary damages for Warner Bros. Discovery “equal to all damages suffered as a result of the defendant’s wrongful conduct, including but not limited to compensatory damages, consequential damages and disgorgement of all profits,” up to a total of $200 million.

Species was first to report on the Warner Bros. Discovery suit.

Brian Welk contributed reporting.

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