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Warner Brothers Discovery is sending a clear message to its competitor, Paramount – they are taking legal action against them. The center of the lawsuit is South Park, the long-running animated show that debuted on Comedy Central in 1997, a channel owned by Paramount.
At that time, cable television was the main source of entertainment and South Park quickly became the highest-rated program on Comedy Central. However, the introduction of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and Disney Plus completely changed the game.
In 2019, before Paramount Plus, the media giant agreed with South Park’s creators to license the entire library of the show in addition to 30 new episodes for seasons 24, 25, and 26. The lawsuit was brought by Warner Brothers at the end of February, claiming that the licensing agreement between Paramount and South Park’s creators was a violation of their own rights.
In 2019, Warner Brothers Discovery secured the streaming rights to South Park for its then-new streaming service, HBO Max. The deal was worth a reported $160 million, and it was set to last until June 2025. At the time, things were looking good for Warner Brothers, as they had a full slate of South Park episodes ready to go.
Fast forward to early 2021, and everything changed. Paramount launched its own streaming service, Paramount Plus, and noticed that one of the most beloved animated shows of all time was missing from its lineup – South Park. Despite Warner Brothers still holding the rights to the show, Paramount decided to take matters into its own hands and made a $900 million deal with the creators of South Park just a few months after the launch of Paramount Plus.
Under the terms of the deal, South Park will become exclusive to Paramount Plus once Warner Brothers’ contract expires. This means that fans of the show will need to subscribe to Paramount Plus if they want to continue watching new episodes after June 2025.
It’s unclear why Warner Brothers didn’t make a counteroffer or try to renegotiate the terms of the original deal. Perhaps they thought that South Park wasn’t a big enough draw for audiences to justify paying more money for the streaming rights. Or maybe they were simply caught off guard by Paramount’s aggressive move to secure the show for their own platform.
Whatever the reason, it’s clear that Paramount sees South Park as a valuable asset that will help drive subscriptions to their streaming service. And with so much money on the line, it’s no surprise that they were willing to pay top dollar to make sure that they could get their hands on it.
A deal between Paramount and South Park has come under fire from Warner Brothers, who claim that the exclusive South Park specials shown on Paramount Plus in 2021 and 2022 were a breach of contract. Warner Brothers alleges that Paramount used “grammatical sleight of hand” to classify the new content as movies or events, enabling them to avoid contractual obligations.
Warner Brothers also accuses Paramount of not delivering the promised three additional ten-episode seasons for the show, as agreed upon in the 2019 licensing agreement. Consequently, Warner Brothers has taken legal action against Paramount, and the case is now in the hands of the court.
Paramount has refuted Warner Brothers’ claims, stating that they are without merit, but the outcome is yet to be determined. Meanwhile, Warner Brothers hopes to profit from the show that they believe legally belongs to them, at least for the time being.
The company is suing due to the importance of South Park in their branding and marketing. This is significant as the company has added only 1.1 million subscribers to their streaming services in the past quarter while losing a massive $2.1 billion. The outcome of this legal action is eagerly awaited to see which streaming service the South Park crew will finally land on.
Do you think this is a big deal or just another legal issue that is common in the entertainment industry? Share your thoughts in the comments below.