How ‘South Park’ Became the Envy of Streaming

Matt Stone and Trey Parker
Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty
Julia Alexander
March 10, 2022

Few would have guessed, upon its debut in 1997, that South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s crudely-drawn, foul-mouthed Comedy Central cartoon, would one day become perhaps Paramount’s most vital I.P. behind Star Trek. But in an “always on” streaming era, the show has become one of the most dominant animated series—beating out competitors like The Simpsons and Family Guy. With multiple movies produced per year, South Park isn’t fighting for attention in an overcrowded market; South Park guarantees an audience year after year. 

The prowess on digital platforms is astonishing. More than 53 billion minutes of South Park were streamed in 2021, according to internal data viewed by Puck. These days, most new shows don’t make it past three seasons. But a long-running series that has a fortified fan base, the promise of engagement every day, and guaranteed new episodes to keep viewers satiated is perhaps the most valuable asset in media. Very few series fit that description, but South Park regularly accomplishes all three. 

The show’s value is manifest in the increased license fees that Parker and Stone have nabbed for the rights to South Park alone, going from $110 million at Hulu to more than $500 million at HBO Max and, most recently, $900 million from Paramount for the global exclusive rights to stream South Park on Paramount+ beginning in 2025. Much like Friends or The Office, owning a long-running show with multi-generational fans can help build a streaming business. But, crucially, unlike those shows, South Park is still producing new episodes, still fresh, and still generating new audiences—all of which makes it an utterly unique, and highly enviable, franchise in the new media ecosystem.