Warner Bros. Discovery sues Paramount for a breach of contract over "South Park"
The popular animated series "South Park" has been tickling our funny bones on Paramount-owned Comedy Central for ages.
The backstory: The popular animated series "South Park" has been tickling our funny bones on Paramount-owned Comedy Central for ages. And in 2019, HBO Max snagged the streaming rights for the first 23 seasons of the show, plus three upcoming seasons for around a whopping US$500 million.
More recently: HBO Max was set to receive the latest "South Park" episodes in 2020. But, because of the pandemic, production was put on hold. Warner Bros. Discovery was promised 30 new episodes over three seasons but said it's only received 14 so far.
To fuel the fire, Paramount launched its streaming service, Paramount+, in 2021. And Paramount's subsidiary, MTV, allegedly signed a US$900 million deal with the "South Park" creators for exclusive content on Paramount+ in 2021.
The development: Now, Warner Bros. Discovery is suing Paramount for breach of contract. It says that Paramount, MTV and South Park Digital Studios diverted all-new "South Park" content to Paramount+, breaking the agreement. The lawsuit alleges that "South Park" creators produced two pandemic-themed specials, which were offered to Paramount when they should have been given to HBO Max. Basically, HBO is alleging they used "verbal trickery" to categorize the specials as "movies" rather than new episodes so that they could "sidestep" the agreed-upon deal.
But, Paramount denies all of these allegations, pointing out that it has been delivering new episodes to HBO Max, even though Warner Bros. Discovery hasn't paid all the license fees for the episodes it's already streaming.
"We believe that Paramount and South Park Digital Studios embarked on a multi-year scheme of unfair trade practices and deception, flagrantly and repeatedly breaching our contract, which clearly gave HBO Max exclusive streaming rights to the existing library and new content from the popular animated comedy South Park," said HBO Max in a statement.
"We believe these claims are without merit and look forward to demonstrating so through the legal process," said a Paramount spokesperson. "We also note that Paramount 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."
"With the major restructuring decisions behind us, this year we are focused on building and growing our businesses for the future, and we're off to a great start," said David Zaslav, Warner Bros. Discovery's CEO, in the company's earnings release last Thursday.