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How A Warner Bros. Lawsuit Could Change How You Watch South Park

It must be tough to be a kid forever growing up in the fictional town of "South Park," especially when your parents — or, rather, parent companies — are always fighting.

Behemoth media conglomerates Paramount Global (née ViacomCBS Inc.) and Warner Bros. Discovery are currently locked in a lawsuit that could very well determine how fans are able to watch and stream the long-running animated Comedy Central series. The two companies have had a somewhat complicated collaborative distribution agreement that has become more tense as each of them has sought to grow their own in-house streaming services.

To explain its impact on your life simply without getting too deep into the corporate-legal drama of it all, WBD is suing Paramount over accusations that it breached a 2019 agreement that allowed WBD to stream all seasons of "South Park," as well as new episodes as they aired. The lawsuit alleges that Paramount withheld "South Park" specials and related content, which have aired on Paramount's own streaming service, Paramount+, in violation of the terms of the agreement between the two parties. Meanwhile, Paramount has alleged that WBD is refusing to pay installments of their $500 million licensing deal. Paramount has filed a counterclaim seeking unpaid fees from WBD.

If the court sides with Paramount and WBD continues to not pay the agreed fee, "South Park" could be headed to Paramount+.

The Streaming Wars have moved into the courtroom

Warner Bros. brokered the deal in 2019, during a period of time in which they were acquiring content in preparation for the launch of their new streaming service, HBO Max. They paid well over a million dollars per episode, hoping to entice potential subscribers with exclusive streaming access to "South Park."

However, at least from their perspective, Paramount had no obligation to deliver Warner Bros. any "South Park" content outside the scope of the television show. Months after inking their deal with Warner Bros., Paramount contracted Parker and Stone for 14 made-for-tv-movies that would premiere exclusively on their revamped streaming service, Paramount+. As a consequence of this, specials like "South Park: The Streaming Wars" or "Post COVID" would never be available to HBO Max subscribers. The 26 seasons of television episodes, meanwhile, continued to be housed exclusively on HBO Max — meaning "South Park" fans would have to get both subscriptions to stay up to date.

Paramount alleges Warner Bros. Discovery missed several months of installments in their agreed-upon $500 million payment plan and is seeking for the court to compel WBD to pay them. Despite allegedly not paying the fees, WBD has continued to use "South Park" as a selling point for HBO Max, especially after its relaunch as Max in May 2023. The day the service went live, users could find "South Park" on the front page, next to Max originals like "SmartLess: On the Road" and Zooey Deschanel's "What Am I Eating?" 

This is far from the biggest controversy "South Park" has been involved in, though it may be the one creating the biggest headache for fans.