Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. is suing Paramount Global, alleging its competitor aired new episodes of popular cartoon series “South Park” despite Warner paying for the exclusive rights.

Warner says it signed a deal in 2019 that spent more than $500 million on the rights to existing and new episodes of the irreverent show, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in New York State Supreme Court.

HBO Max, Warner’s streaming platform, was supposed to receive the first episodes of a new season of “South Park” in 2020. But the company received notice that the COVID-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of the production, it is claimed at the request. .

Although Warner has exclusive rights to the show through 2025, the company alleges that South Park Digital Studios, which produces the series and is a defendant in the lawsuit, offered two pandemic-themed specials to Paramount. , which released them in September 2020 and March. 2021.

The lawsuit alleges that the pandemic specials should have been offered to Warner as part of the original contract. The move, which the lawsuit said was a “verbal prank,” prompted fans of the show to take to Paramount’s platform to watch it. Almost all episodes of South Park air on Comedy Central, one of Paramount’s cable television stations, according to the lawsuit.

The series’ creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who launched it in 1997 and oversee the franchise, are not named in the lawsuit.

Securing the streaming rights to “South Park” is a competitive process due to the potentially lucrative market that attracts more subscribers, advertisers and a loyal fan base, which Warner says is made up primarily of young adults.

The 24-page court document also mentions a $900 million deal in 2021 between a Paramount subsidiary and South Park Digital Studios for exclusive content on the Paramount Plus streaming service, which launched the same year.

Warner alleges the deal was a deliberate “plan” between Paramount, its subsidiary MTV Entertainment Studios, and South Park Digital Studios to “direct as much new South Park content as possible onto Paramount Plus to boost this fledgling streaming platform. . ” .

Warner paid $1,687,500 per episode, and claims it has not yet received all the episodes covered by the contract, causing it damages of over $200 million.

Paramount Global did not immediately respond to emails from The Associated Press seeking comment.

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