The studios are putting on a united front when it comes to the striking scribes and actors, but Warner Bros Discovery and Paramount Global dust-up over who really has the streaming rights to Eric Cartman and the South Park gang shows no signs of settling down.
In the match of legal dodgeball that the David Zaslav and Shari Redstone-run conglomerates have been hurling at each other the past few months, WBD are now moving to have Paramount’s partial motion to dismiss tossed out.
“Defendants’ Motion has the dubious distinction of trying to downplay while simultaneously highlighting the very misconduct which forced Plaintiff to file this suit,” declares WBD’s memorandum of opposition to the desire by Paramount and series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone to disperse the Max parent company’s $200 million lawsuit (read it here).
“The reality is that Defendant South Park Digital Studios agreed that Plaintiff’s HBO Max streaming platform would be the exclusive destination for consumers looking to stream new episodes of the popular comedy series South Park. Defendants came to regret having granted these exclusive streaming rights to Plaintiff when Paramount Global launched its own streaming platform, Paramount+,” WBD adds with a whack.
In a Hollywood seemingly looking to cut costs and trim spending everywhere it can, the initially filed February 24 action over South Park comes from the $500 million 2019 deal where then AT&T-owned WarnerMedia snared multi-year domestic streaming rights to the 23-season past seasons of South Park plus several new seasons. Adding around 300 episodes of the Comedy Central show to Warner’s inventory for mid-2020, the agreement with the then Viacom was to be paid in installments of about $25 million a quarter – which worked out fine until early this year.
That’s when WBD turned off the money tap in protest, but kept streaming the series
The company alleges that soon after an August 2021 $900 million “f*ck you-money” deal that ViacomCBS made with Parker and Stone’s South Park Digital Studios, the 2019 deal started to sour. WBD claims Paramount SPDS and MTV Entertainment wedged in loophole of sorts in the original deal that now permitted them to fully retain new seasons of South Park and more than a dozen so-called “original movies” based on the series.
Rubbing some vinegar in the wound, a subscriber seeking Paramount+ said in early 2022 that come 2025 they would be the global streaming hub for all the South Park episodes, movies, and made-for-streaming movies.
“In short, Defendants’ assertions that it provided all required content to Plaintiff are contradicted by the multitude of factual allegations evincing SPDS’s bad faith conduct in diverting new South Park episodes to Paramount+ after granting exclusive streaming rights in such content to Plaintiff,” says WBD in their July 13 East Coast opposition filing. “At most, Defendants’ assertions present a disputed issue of fact that a jury will need to decide, not grounds for dismissal of Plaintiff’s well-pled claims at the initial pleading stage.”
Giving Paramount the gears for “deceptive acts” to lure viewers to watch South Park on Paramount+ over what was once called HBO Max, WBD are determined to have this Steaming Wars battlefield remain very active, at least for now.
“This is not merely ‘garden variety’ behavior as Defendants argue,” the 27-page document asserts. “Rather, it is a textbook example of bad faith business conduct, with a consequential adverse impact on consumers at large. Plaintiff’s claims are based on well-pled factual allegations that go far beyond the minimal requirements necessary to withstand a motion to dismiss. Defendants’ Motion is groundless and should be denied in its entirety.”
The opposition drafted up by WBD’s Walden Macht & Haran LLP attorneys asks New York Judge Margaret Chan to schedule an oral argument hearing on whether Paramount Global’s partial motion can go forward or not. Though Zaslav and Redstone may not be bringing it up around the fireplace at Sun Valley this year over roasted marshmallows, there is also the matter of Paramount’s more than $50 million countersuit too.
That missive from the Redstone-run corporation was fired off in April along with the partial motion to dismiss.
Or, as Cartman once said: “The only way to fight hate is with even more hate!”
Neither WBD nor Paramount Global responded to requests today for comment on this latest legal move. If they do, we will update this post.