By Jonathan Stempel and Dawn Chmielewski
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The rights to stream “South Park,” the popular animated comedy featuring foul-mouthed children, is the subject of a new lawsuit where Warner Bros Discovery Inc is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages from Paramount Global.
In a complaint filed on Friday in a New York state court in Manhattan, Warner said it paid Paramount and “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone more than $500 million in 2019 for the exclusive right to stream 333 episodes domestically on HBO Max, including the forthcoming seasons 24 to 26.
Warner said that after being told in 2020 it would not receive 10 new episodes, representing season 24, because the COVID-19 pandemic had halted production, the “South Park” creators began producing other content, while Paramount prepared to launch its own Paramount+ streaming service.
The complaint said the defendants cemented their apostasy in August 2021 when Paramount’s MTV unit announced an agreement to stream new “South Park” content on Paramount+, through season 30 in 2027.
Warner said it now expects to receive only 14 of the 30 new “South Park” episodes it had been promised, including two “Pandemic Specials” that Paramount claims constitute season 24.
“Rather than honor its obligations to Warner/HBO, [the defendants] engaged in a campaign of verbal trickery designed to circumvent the terms of the 2019 agreement,” the complaint said.
The defendants also include MTV and South Park Digital Studios, a joint venture between Paramount, Parker and Stone.
“We believe these claims are without merit and look forward to demonstrating so through the legal process,” Paramount said in a statement.
A spokeswoman and lawyers for Parker and Stone did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“South Park” was launched in August 1997 on Comedy Central, owned by Paramount.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York and Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio)