By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York trial judge has narrowed Warner Bros Discovery’s lawsuit against Paramount Global over the rights to stream “South Park,” the animated comedy featuring foul-mouthed children.
In a Monday decision, Justice Margaret Chan of the Supreme Court in Manhattan dismissed a claim that Paramount’s alleged deceptive practices violated a state consumer protection law.
She also dismissed a claim that Paramount failed to act in good faith, because that claim duplicated Warner’s breach of contract claim.
Lawyers for both companies did not immediately respond on Tuesday to requests for comment.
The litigation stemmed from Warner’s 2019 agreement to pay more than $500 million to Paramount and “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone for the exclusive right to stream more than 300 old and 30 new “South Park” episodes domestically on HBO Max.
Warner sued in February, saying Paramount breached the agreement by providing only 14 new episodes, and diverted other new “South Park” content to its Paramount+ streaming service under a $900 million agreement with Parker and Stone.
To support its claim under the consumer protection law, Warner accused Paramount of confusing consumers through statements designed to have them sign up with Paramount+.
But the judge agreed with Paramount that the lawsuit concerned a private contract dispute, not deceptive “consumer-oriented” conduct that the state law was meant to address.
She also said consumers “could, in fact, differentiate” between the two platforms, with Paramount+ being the “exclusive home” of two “South Park” movies per year, and HBO Max housing the series’ back catalogue.
Paramount had in April countersued Warner for more than $52 million of allegedly unpaid license fees, but dropped its counterclaims last month.
Warner’s remaining claims include breach of contract, tortious interference with contract, and unjust enrichment.
“South Park” was launched in August 1997 on Comedy Central, owned by Paramount.
The case is WarnerMedia Direct LLC v Paramount Global et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 651001/2023.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York, Editing by Franklin Paul)