They haven’t quite killed Kenny, but Paramount Global tonight took a hard swipe at Warner Bros Discovery over South Park.
In a bold jab back at the David Zaslav run company’s February 24th $200 million lawsuit over steaming rights to the long running Trey Parker and Matt Stone created cartoon satire, the Sheri Redstone run conglomerate just filed a more than $50 million countersuit in New York – and they left nothing in the corner.
“Through this Counterclaim, South Park Studios seeks to recover all of the unpaid license fees, totaling more than $52 million to date, based upon WarnerMedia’s blatant breaches of the Term Sheet,” the response and counterclaims document says. “In addition, based on WarnerMedia’s material breaches of contract, and its indications that it will continue to withhold the $225+ million in license fees still owed for the rest of the five-year term, South Park Studios is entitled to a declaratory judgment confirming the parties’ rights and obligations under the Term Sheet,” the dense 59-page filing states (read it here).
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“Further, WarnerMedia has given clear indications that it will not pay any of the remaining $225+ million in license fees still owed for the rest of the five-year term of the Term Sheet,” the document goes on to say. “Paramount Global certainly has not agreed that WarnerMedia can continue to disregard its contractual obligations in this manner.”
And, as funny as South Park can be and corporate dust-ups can appear, this is clearly no laughing matter- especially as WDB prepare to launch their revamped MAX streaming service next month.
“Warner Bros. Discovery has indefensibly refused to pay more than $50 million dollars it owes for South Park content that it has undisputedly received, and which HBO Max continues to air and exploit,” a Paramount Global spokesperson told Deadline Wednesday after the response/counterclaims hit the New York state Supreme Court docket.
“Warner Bros. Discovery’s argument that Paramount Global was required to deliver additional South Park content is baseless and wholly unsupported by the parties’ agreement,” the exec added. “Furthermore, it certainly does not justify WBD’s refusal to pay for immensely valuable content all of which it has received and from which it continues to profit.”
Reps for WBD did not respond to request for comment on the counterclaims. If and when they do, we will update this post.
In the meantime, let’s talk some fairly recent history.
In 2019, the then AT&T-owned WarnerMedia jacked up its streaming inventory with a hard fought $500 million deal to snag 23-season past run of South Park plus several new seasons. That agreement for around 300 episodes, which were delivered almost immediately, was to be paid in installments of around $25 million a quarter – which it was up until earlier this year.
Throwing around accusations of “illicit conspiracy,” and “verbal trickery” on the part of the Comedy Central parent company, WBD assert that in 2021 Paramount Global, Parker and Stone’s South Park Digital Studios and MTV Entertainment Studios drilled a hole in the big bucks 2019 agreement that would permit the Bob Bakish-led gang keep the linear and streaming rights new seasons of South Park and around 14 “original movies” based on the sitcom.
That $900 million “f—k you money” deal that ViacomCBS struck with Parker and Stone two years ago put a lot more Cartman in the pipeline, if you know what I mean?, and a lot more South Park coming down the line for the burgeoning Paramount+ streamer.
Now, nothing in the 2019 agreement specifies how many episodes each future South Park season could or could not be, well-informed sources tell us. However, at this point you have South Park on two separate streaming platforms, both trying to gain a solid foothold in a very crowded market and both looking at trying to squeeze more premium content out of tighter budgets.
So, what ever is or is not in that much celebrated deal of four years, expect to see a lot of lawyers make a lot of hay and a lot of money – and that could make a great episode of South Park, on one streamer or another
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