According to Variety, streaming platform HBO Max has argued in a new lawsuit that Paramount Global, via its streaming platform Paramount+, has violated a contract that gave the former exclusive streaming rights to “South Park.”
“Defendants engaged in a simple and obvious artifice of mischaracterizing the content to avoid obligations” of the contract, the suit says.
HBO Max is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in New York. The complaint says that HBO Max gained the exclusive rights to stream new episodes of “South Park” and its old “library” of past episodes after an “extremely competitive” bidding process.
But, in violation of that contract, the suit claims, Paramount+ made a deal with the show’s creators for spinoff movies and other spinoff media with MTV in an “illicit scheme.” The latter streamer also said it paid for a certain number of episodes and did not receive them.
“South Park” airs on Comedy Central (owned by Paramount) and is one of the longest-running TV shows ever, as Bloomberg noted. It follows the adventures of a group of four boys who run around making jokes in the eponymous Colorado small town.
HBO claims it paid “more than half a billion dollars” for the rights to stream it exclusively.
“Exclusivity was so important to Warner/HBO that when SPDS asked Warner/HBO whether it would consider sharing the rights to South Park with CBS All Access or another Paramount streamer, Warner/HBO rejected the proposition as a ‘non-starter,'” the lawsuit said.
SPDS is South Park Digital Studios, a media company that produces “South Park” as well as has done titles like “The Book of Mormon.”
“We believe these claims are without merit and look forward to demonstrating so through the legal process,” Paramount said, per Variety.
HBO has accused Paramount, MTV Networks and its parent company Viacom of unlawfully streaming episodes of the hit animated television show, South Park.
This all started when Viacom failed to renew the South Park streaming agreement with HBO earlier this year and instead signed an exclusive three year deal with Hulu.
HBO claims that Viacom is in breach of contract by illegally streaming South Park on its own platforms such as Paramount.com and the MTV websites and apps.
HBO also claims that Viacom has gone so far as to interfere with its negotiations with other streaming partners, resulting in a significantly diminished value to the show.
In the lawsuit, HBO seeks an injunction to prevent Viacom from further streaming South Park and unspecified damages for lost profits, citing a “calculated and malicious activity” that “violated both the letter and spirit of the parties’ agreements.”
In response, Viacom has countered that South Park still appears on some of its platforms as allowed in the terms of the original agreement, and that its streaming activities are entirely legal.
The outcome of this case remains to be seen, but its implications may be wide-reaching. If HBO is successful, this could signal a move towards more stringent contracts and even stricter anti-piracy laws, while any ruling in favor of Viacom may indicate that streaming services are allowed to stretch the terms of their agreements a bit more than traditionally thought.