South Park Creators Get Online Ad Revenue Deal

This is a must-read article in the New York Times about the new deal that South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have struck with Viacom. The deal, which is reportedly worth $75 million to its creators, includes a three-year extension of the series and the creation of SouthParkStudios.com, an incubator for new projects that, I believe, Parker and Stone will have an ownership stake in.

The most attention-grabbing part of the deal, and very likely a first for the creator of an animated TV series, is that Viacom has agreed to give Parker and Stone a 50-50 split of ad revenues on digital platforms, though not on television. The deal was made possible thanks to the duo’s lawyer, Kevin Morris, who in 1997 had the foresight to demand that the creators would share in any revenue not derived from the episode airings on cable. What was then a seemingly minor contract clause has today “created what may be a new model in the balance of power and money between creative artists and companies like Comedy Central,” as so succinctly put in this op-ed in the Times. The precedent-setting contractual victory of the South Park creators is a cause of celebration for all creators, as the antiquated exploitation-based business models of the entertainment industry crumble in this new digital age and artists slowly but surely begin to receive equitable compensation for their creations.

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  • http://hjfhjk.blogspot.com/ charlie j

    hopefully the future of creator driven entertainment will honor deals like this, but its too bad the first people to recieve it dont deserve it.

  • K.Borcz

    that’s one smart lawyer

  • Anne D. Bernstein

    I doubt it is the start of anything new. I’m sure Viacom legal would no longer allow a contract like that. Especially with young creators (which Matt and Trey were at the time). They tend to learn from their mistakes.

  • http://www.dohtem.com Greg Method

    Although I’m happy for Trey and Matt for this new deal (even though, let’s face it, the show hasn’t really been funny for about seven years now), this really isn’t anything new for Comedy Central.

    The network had absolutely no stake in ownership in “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ (at the time their flagship show), and the show was dropped coincidentally around the same time that Best Brains had made deals for the movie and the VHS releases with outside companies.

    I’m not saying that could happen again, especially since Viacom does control the actual “South Park” episodes, but it nevertheless might be something the boys should keep in the back of their minds…after all, this is the company that famously got rid of another creator and chief creative director of another immensely popular cartoon, so anything’s possible.

  • http://www.designerwhite.ca designerwhite

    Holy moly! I never knew the charlie j was the true creator of southpark. I can’t believe they ripped you off. Those jerks! Blazing trails the rest of us can follow… using actual negotiation skills, that should rightfully be you.

  • DanO

    good for Trey and Matt. I hope the deal reverberates to benefit more creators.

    additionally: i remember seeing an interview with Trey and matt about their beginnings and they explained how their first short, “The Spirit Of Christmas” was accepted into an animation festival. they said they went there and stood amongst other animators who were all thoroughly bitter, resentful, and miserable people who scoffed at them because they hadn’t made a ‘real’ animated film.

    5 comments in and it looks like things are still the same. what a sad reflection of the attitudes in our industry. I’d work with Trey and Matt over most of the “geniuses” the animation community adores.

  • Paul N

    I hear ya, DanO. Sometimes I wonder how people who get paid to draw (or move digital puppets around) all day can be so angry and bitter. I get paid to do what I love to do. Sure parts of it suck, but most days it’s pretty good (and I’ve been at this for 20 years).

    If I’d been at that festival, I imagine I’d be having a great time with Trey and Matt, laughing at all the “real” animators.

  • http://www.bobharper.net Bob Harper

    I agree with you DanO. Some folks take the fun out of making toons.

    Congrats to Matt and Trey. They deserve it. THEY DID IT! It proves if you think you got more talent and ability then there’s nothing stopping anybody from doing it too.

    My feeling is that this deal won’t be repeated for newcomers. Sort of the infamous debacle that Fox did by granting a certain young director the licensing rights to his far out space movie. That’s right – nobody gets the George Lucas deal any more.

    However, if you create it, produce it and build an audience like Homestar Runner did, then you have more leverage to get a better deal. That is the future of creator driven material. Animation needs to do what a lot of indie comic creators such as Jeff Smith did. Make it, exlpoit it and reap the benefits from it.

  • Andrew T

    These guys were no dummies. Whatever you might think of their talent, they managed to retain complete creative control over their work, they got two features made, and they became rich and famous without becoming pontificating blowhards in the process. I happen to believe they DO deserve all the success that has come their way, and I’m glad they were shrewd enough in the very beginning of their career NOT to sign away all the rights to their work just to get it on the air.

  • Just An Opinion

    I agree, ass-kissing aside, this is a wonderful and inspiring moment for all creators. Great news.

  • DHaynes

    I fourth DanO’s comment. I think what bothers animators most about South Park is that while it’s animated, it isn’t the animation that people watch it for – it’s the hilarious storylines, characters and dialogue. In some instances, the horrible animation makes it funnier! I hope this makes Trey and Matt even more filthy rich than they already are.

  • http://www.flyingiguannaproductions.com Zee

    HURRAY!!!!!! YESSS!!! This has great implications for those of us pitching to networks for future projects. It’s about time creators get what they deserve. I need to get their lawyer to represent me next time I pitch an idea. The times, they are a changin’.

  • red pill junkie

    I agree with Bob Harper, this lawyer made a deal the likes of which will never be seen again.

    I am not that a big fan of South Park, suppose mainly because they stopped showing the show here in Mexico in the original language a long time ago, and I had grown so used to the character’s voices. There’s a difference between “They kill Kenny! You bastard!” to “Mataron a Kenny! Hijo de Puta!” that I couldn’t surpass.

    But they have a big audience still and so this SouthParkStudios.com seem like a very good opportunity for new material and ideas to arrive. And for these guys to help new artists have a chance to reach a mainstream audience… hopefully.

  • http://www.thexbridge.com Nobody Important

    “Hijo de Puta.”

    Literally, “Son of a bitch!” It fits.

    But the detail was in place for 10 years, so it’s hardly anything new. The press just got wind of it for the first time. It includes revenue sharing on everything aside from show airings on cable, including VHS/DVD sales, merchandising, the movie, and recently syndication rights. Of course, it now includes ad revenue sharing on digital formats in addition to the other forms of revenue generated from the series.

    Hardly anything new.

    It’s the first time it happened. It’s the last time it’ll happen because the old guard will now, based on Viacom’s “mistake,” adjust the rules so something like that will never happen again.

  • Paul N

    RPJ, I’ve always wondered what Puta means, and I could never get my Spanish-speaking friends to tell me :0) Thanks!

  • http://www.davemackey.com Dave Mackey

    The South Park Studios website has been around for quite some time so the depiction of its “creation” is somewhat inaccurate.

  • Jorge Garrido

    Nice deal! Let’s hope all the new South Park Studio shows get this kind of deal. Congrats, Matt and Trey!

  • http://willfinn.blogspot.com/ Will FInn

    if the backstory i heard is correct, some of the credit acutally goes to the Comedy Central exec who put the show on the air in the first place.

    i read somewhere that although the show preview tested catastrophically bad enough to spell D.O.A. under typical circumstances, some “suit” in power said: ‘screw it. let’s run it anyway.’ …and the rest is history. proving once again that the multi-million dollar racket that is “focus group testing” is really run by later-day versions of the fraudulent “tailor” in Hans Christian Anderson’s THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES.

    if that’s true, i say hats off to that guy. there’s not enough like him.

  • Mr. Semaj

    This is awesome. Though, it’s sad such a successful deal would be labeled a “mistake”. Some people must love failure. :(

  • http://www.smartduck.net Anthony Gomez

    Hey! Creators on my site get 50%. Maybe I should dash out a press release? :P