By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Paramount Global has filed a countersuit against Warner Bros Discovery Inc over the rights to stream “South Park,” the popular animated comedy featuring foul-mouthed children.
In a Wednesday night filing in a New York state court in Manhattan, Paramount is seeking to collect more than $52 million of license fees that Warner has allegedly refused to pay, and hundreds of millions of dollars that Warner still owes.
The litigation stems from Warner’s 2019 agreement to pay Paramount and “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone more than $500 million for the exclusive right to stream more than 300 existing episodes and 30 new “South Park” episodes domestically on HBO Max.
Warner sued Paramount in February, claiming that Paramount attempted to circumvent that agreement by providing only 14 new episodes, and diverting other new “South Park” content to its Paramount+ streaming service.
In its response, Paramount denied that any breach occurred, and said Warner has “indicated” it will not pay more than $225 million of fees still owed.
It wants a judge to order Warner to pay those fees, plus the payments missed in December 2022 and March 2023.
Warner’s “wholesale refusal to pay for any of the ‘South Park’ content it admits it has received and is continuing to exploit constitutes a clear and knowing breach of its obligations,” Paramount said.
In a statement on Thursday, Warner said Paramount “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 [South Park].”
“South Park” was launched in August 1997 on Comedy Central, owned by Paramount.
The case is WarnerMedia Direct LLC v Paramount Global et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 651001/2023.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)