Warner says it signed a contract in 2019 paying more than $500 million (£418 million) for the rights to existing and new episodes of the irreverent show, according to a lawsuit filed in New York state Supreme Court.

HBO Max, Warner’s streaming platform, was scheduled to receive the first episodes of a new South Park season in 2020.

But the company was informed that the pandemic halted production, the lawsuit says.

Despite Warner’s exclusive rights to the show through 2025, the company alleges that South Park Digital Studios, which produces the shows and is a defendant in the lawsuit, offered two pandemic-themed specials to Paramount, which aired them on September 2020 and March 2021.

The lawsuit claims that the pandemic specials should have been offered to Warner under the initial contract.

The move, called a “verbal stunt” in the lawsuit, brought fans of the show to Paramount’s competing platform.

Nearly every episode of South Park premieres on Comedy Central, one of Paramount’s cable channels, the lawsuit says.

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.

South Park creators Matt Stone, left, and Trey Parker
South Park creators Matt Stone, left, and Trey Parker (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Obtaining the broadcast rights to South Park is a competitive process due to the potentially lucrative market attracting more subscribers, advertisers, and a loyal fan base that Warner claims consists primarily of young adults.

The 24-page court file also cites a $900 million (£753 million) deal in 2021 between a Paramount subsidiary and South Park Digital Studios for exclusive content on the Paramount Plus streaming service, which launched on same year.

Warner claims the deal was a deliberate “scheme” between Paramount, its MTV Entertainment Studios subsidiary, and South Park Digital Studios to “steer as much new South Park content as possible onto Paramount Plus to power that nascent streaming platform.”

Warner paid $1,687,500 (£1,412,193) per episode and alleges it has not yet received all episodes covered by the contract, resulting in more than $200 million (£167 million) in damages.

Paramount Global did not immediately respond to emails from The Associated Press seeking comment on the lawsuit.


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