The ongoing legal battle between Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global regarding South Park streaming rights heated up again late last week, when WBD asked the courts to throw out a partial motion to dismiss filed by Paramount in April.
How did this legal conflict begin? In February of this year, WBD sued Paramount, alleging that the company was colluding with South Park Digital Studios (SPDS) and MTV Entertainment Studios to circumvent an existing deal for the exclusive streaming rights of South Park between WBD and SPDS. According to WBD, the companies were using “grammatical sleight-of-hand,” characterizing new content as ‘movies,’ ‘films,’ or ‘events’ to sidestep SPDS’s contractual obligations” to HBO Max and instead send new programming to Paramount+. South Park co-creator Trey Parker has acknowledged Paramount’s dubious tactics saying in a 2021 interview that the SPDS crew was essentially producing South Park episodic content, but that they couldn’t call them episodes so “[Paramount] then went and called them movies,” adding that, “They are the ones who said we are giving them 14 movies in seven years. All I can say is for me, personally, I am 52 years old, I have made three movies in my life. So you do the math.”
What was the response to that lawsuit? In April, Paramount filed a counterclaim that argued that HBO Max got everything it was owed under the original agreement but had withheld two required payments of $26 million. Paramount also requested a partial dismissal of the original lawsuit.
What happened last week? In a new filing made by WBD on July 13 (download PDF here), the company asked the court to toss out Paramount’s request for partial dismissal. WBD’ lawyers argue, “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.” Essentially, WBD says that there is enough evidence for a jury to hear the case and that Paramount’s own countersuit actually proves that point.
What does WBD want now? The document drafted by WBD’s attorneys asks New York judge Margaret Chan to deny Paramount’s motion to dismiss, while scheduling an oral argument hearing so that both sides can speak to the judge.