Show Drama Unwinds

Streaming wars

The long-running animated show, South Park, has premiered as a staple on the cable television network, Comedy Central, for many years.  Although known for its hilarious parodies, which often poke fun at celebrities, pop culture, and politics, South Park is now at the center of an extensive lawsuit focusing on streaming service rights.  The two services that are battling against one another are HBO Max and Paramount+.  The lawsuit was filed at the end of February in a New York Supreme Court and places into consideration a $500 million contract between the two services.

In 2019, Paramount Global, which is the parent company of both Paramount+ and Comedy Central, formed a written agreement with HBO Max, the plaintiff, affording the company with exclusive South Park streaming rights for the previous 23 seasons and the next three seasons.  The latter contends, however, that the price tag agreed to in the original contract was inflated.  Paramount argues that the coronavirus pandemic impacted the number of episodes produced in subsequent seasons.  The new episodes in season 26 are currently airing on Comedy Central.  While each season typically airs ten episodes, the three newest seasons of the animated series ranged from two to six episodes per season.

There is a secondary issue concerning the airing of South Park “specials” on Paramount+, a $900 million deal that apparently interferes with the contract established between HBO Max and Paramount+.  The fact that the episodes are referred to as “specials” and not “episodes” allegedly creates a loophole in the former contract.  If described as “episodes,” the streaming rights would remain with HBO Max.  The plaintiff in the case challenges these actions and accuses Paramount Global of engaging in grammatical trickery and descriptive tactics that play in the company’s favor.  Despite the claims against Paramount Global, representatives for the company have provided assurance that the terms of the original contract have been honored.