South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have just signed one of the biggest deals in tv history, netting $900 million to create more films and episodes for ViacomCBS. But it’s unlikely to change much in their lives, says Stone: after all, “we’ve been rich for a long time.”
Speaking to Bloomberg shortly after the deal was announced, Stone shed some light on how the pair got quite so wealthy in the first place. Crucially — and very unusually for animation creators — they netted a 50% stake, back in 2007, in all non-tv rights to their show, including merchandise, video games, and theatrical releases.
At the time, while negotiating a new deal with Viacom, Parker and Stone convinced the company to make episodes available to stream on the website of their production company South Park Studios. The 50% stake was negotiated as part of that move.
Stone credits their lawyer Kevin Morris with securing the deal: “It’s almost so ancient to think about someone in the room saying, ‘If it’s online, you can have that.’ Can you imagine that? That really happened. We’re proud of the fact that we said, ‘Let’s put the show online and build that audience. If we can own half that, let’s just do that.'”
The show’s enduring popularity — reflected in mega-deals like the HBO Max streaming pact — has kept the cash flowing. For these self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneurs,” that has meant funding for new projects, like the hit Broadway show The Book of Mormon.
Asked about the biggest change in his life as a result of the new ViacomCBS deal, Stone replies that it “won’t change my day-to-day. I’m not going to buy a new watch. We’re a media company. We use the proceeds from this to invest.”
He goes on to list some of the projects he and Parker have invested in. They include a horror movie, a musical, a South Park 3d video game, and a deep fake movie: “We have a studio with a dozen people who are deep fake artists.”
Stone says, “A couple movies go to ViacomCBS, and a couple are carved out because we have partners. The deep fake one is in the deal.” He adds that the pair are planning theatrical films.
There are also projects outside the media world. “I think we’re really for the first time going to bring Tegridy Weed into real life,” says Stone, referring to an episode of South Park in which a character starts a marijuana business. He also reiterates something the pair have said before: that they want to acquire Casa Bonita, a Colorado restaurant that has featured in the series, and which recently filed for bankruptcy.
South Park Studios stands as one of the most successful enterprises ever launched by animation creators. But Parker and Stone aren’t wedded to it for life. Asked whether he’s surprised ViacomCBS has never tried to buy out their stake in the company, Stone replies: “We’re not anxious to end the show. But someday we will sell that interest.”