Warner Bros. Discovery Sues Paramount Global Over ‘South Park’ Licensing Controversy

HBO Max’s parent company has filed a lawsuit accusing Paramount Global of breaching elements of a $500 million licensing agreement for the streaming rights to episodes of “South Park” set in 2019.

The suit, filed in the New York State Supreme Court on Friday, claims that Paramount broke the contract by redirecting “South Park” specials and another programming to its own Paramount+ website.

The suit claims that Paramount “blatantly planned to prop up Paramount+ at the expense of Warner/HBO,” and that Paramount participated in “multiple and egregious deceptive factual contortions and contract breaches.”

“Warner/HBO files this case to vindicate its rights and recover the hundreds of millions of dollars in damages caused as a result of Defendants’ malfeasance,” according to the complaint.

HBO Max established a huge license contract with Paramount for rights to “South Park” episodes in October 2019 as then-parent firm AT&T was prepared to launch the HBO Max streaming platform in May 2020.

For over 25 years, “South Park” has been a cornerstone of Paramount Global’s Comedy Central cable channel. The legendary animated comedy from Trey Parker and Matt Stone is in its 26th season and has accumulated over 300 episodes.

According to the lawsuit, when HBO Max bid on the “South Park” streaming rights, it did so with the promise of three new seasons of ten episodes each. However, the suit claims that just two episodes were delivered for the first of those seasons and six for the second. HBO Max has learned that the third season will also have six episodes, for a total of 14 throughout the three seasons.

According to the lawsuit, fresh episodes are significantly more valuable than old ones, and so HBO Max overpaid for the collection.

Meanwhile, MTV, a Paramount subsidiary, signed a $900 million contract with Parker and Stone in 2021 for exclusive “South Park” content to air on Paramount+. According to the news release, an MTV official stated that the partnership would “help boost Paramount+.”

The suit also quotes Stone as saying, “We have fuck you money now,” in regard to the transaction.

HBO Max claims that the agreement compelled them to redirect material from its 2019 contract to Paramount+ instead. The suit claims that Paramount used “verbal trickery” and “grammatical sleight-of-hand” by categorizing the new content as “movies,” “films,” or “events,” rather than “episodes,” to dodge its duties under the 2019 agreement.

Under the MTV contract, Paramount+ would get 14 “made-for-streaming” movies. “South Park: Post Covid,” “South Park: Post Covid: The Return of Covid,” “South Park The Streaming Wars Part 1,” and “South Park The Streaming Wars Part 2” are among the “movies” that have been aired on Paramount+.

Paramount responded by denying the charges. In addition, the business accused Warner Bros. Discovery of neglecting to pay the license fees stipulated in the agreement.

“We feel these claims are without substance and look forward to showing that through the legal process,” a spokeswoman for Paramount Global said. “We also note that Paramount continues to honor 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 owed to Paramount for episodes that have already been delivered and that HBO Max continues to stream.”