All 23 Seasons of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s revered animated comedy, plus three upcoming new seasons, will begin streaming on the new platform in June 2020.
In a deal worth a reported $500 million, WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, the new streaming platform set to launch in May 2020, has outbid a number of media companies for the exclusive U.S. streaming rights to Comedy Central’s iconic adult animated series, South Park. In an announcement made today by Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max and president, TBS, TNT, and truTV, from the HBO Max WarnerMedia Day stage, the multi-year licensing deal was completed with South Park Digital Studios, a joint venture between Viacom and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The deal means HBO Max will stream all 23 seasons of Parker and Stone’s award-winning animated satire, starting in June 2020, as well as the three upcoming new seasons previously greenlit by Comedy Central; each new episode will debut on HBO Max 24 hours after its broadcast premiere.
Under the terms of a digital rights joint venture Viacom signed in 2007 with the South Park creators that covers streaming, mobile and games, the new streaming deal proceeds would be split 50-50.
“South Park is unequivocally among the best—setting the satirical gold standard, with a consistent finger on the comedy pulse,” Reilly said. “Audiences have connected with Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny – either alive or dead – for over 20 years, and we look forward to connecting these characters to new audiences on HBO Max.”
For the last six years, South Park has been the number one primetime cable comedy among young adults, garnering 44 million viewers on cable last year alone. Since premiering in 1997, the show has been a consistent cultural force with its unique blend of biting satire, ribald humor and often brutally frank current event-driven storylines. South Park has earned 19 Emmy Award nominations, 5 Emmy wins and a Peabody Award.
South Park will anchor HBO Max’s young adult animation offering that will also include a selection of Adult Swim series such as cultural phenomenon The Boondocks and Robot Chicken; Crunchyroll’s anime programming; and in a deal just signed for exclusive U.S. streaming rights, the entire feature film library of Studio Ghibli, Japan’s Oscar-winning animation house led by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. South Park also joins HBO Max’s slate of hugely popular sitcoms they’d recently acquired, including Friends, The Big Bang Theory and the British version of The Office, among others
As previously reported on AWN, South Park currently finds itself embroiled in a crisis of sorts, as all clips, episodes and discussions of the show were removed from Chinese digital sites several weeks ago after a recent airing of an episode criticizing Hollywood appeasement of the Chinese government.
The offending episode, “Band in China,” featured dual story lines. In one, Randy Marsh gets arrested for selling marijuana in China and is sent to a work camp patterned after the Xinjiang Provence camps Western sources claim are holding more than one million Chinese Muslims for forced “re-education,” a claim Chinese authorities deny. In the other, the South Park lads form a heavy metal band that gains enough popularity to attract a manager; the script of a film they plan to make keeps changing in order to appease Chinese censors and secure distribution in the PRC.
Established streamers like Netflix and Hulu are now facing intense competitive pressure from direct-to-consumer streaming platforms like Disney+ and HBO Max. Last year, NBCUniversal paid $500 million for five years of exclusive streaming rights for The Office; WarnerMedia spent $425 million on Friends and $600 million on The Big Bang Theory. Netflix recently ponied up $500 million for five years of Seinfield. These and other popular series are considered safe, long-term programming options sure to attract and keep platform subscribers.
Source: HBO Max
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.