Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. is suing Paramount Global, claiming its competitor aired new episodes of the popular animated comedy series “South Park” after Warner paid for the exclusive rights.
Warner says it 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 supposed to receive the first episodes of a new season of “South Park” in 2020. But the company was told the pandemic had halted production, according to the lawsuit.
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 two pandemic-themed specials to Paramount , which aired them in September 2020 and March 2021.
The lawsuit claims the pandemic specials should have been offered to Warner as part of the original contract. The decision, which was called “verbal deception” in the lawsuit, led fans of the show to rival platform Paramount. Almost all episodes of South Park premiere on Comedy Central, one of Paramount’s cable channels, according to the lawsuit.
The show’s creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who launched the show in 1997 and oversee the franchise, were not named in the lawsuit.
Securing the streaming rights to “South Park” is a competitive process due to the potentially lucrative market attracting more subscribers, advertisers and a loyal fan base which Warner’s lawsuit says consists primarily 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 Paramount Plus streaming service, which launched the same year.
Warner says the deal was a deliberate “ploy” between Paramount, its subsidiary MTV Entertainment Studios, and South Park Digital Studios to “divert as much new South Park content as possible to Paramount Plus to boost this fledgling streaming platform.” “.
Warner paid $1,687,500 per episode and claims it has not yet received all the episodes covered by the contract, resulting in damages of over $200 million.
Paramount Global did not immediately respond to emails from The Associated Press seeking comment on the lawsuit.
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