South Park, the longest-running animated show on cable, is heading to HBO Max, parent company WarnerMedia revealed during today's presentation on the future of the upcoming streaming service. Now in its twenty-third season, South Park premiered in 1997 from creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, then best known for their work on Troma's Cannibal!: The Musical. The multiple Emmy Award-winning series has been airing on Cartoon Network since, and has reshaped the face of animation, with crudely-animated content for adults taking on a huge amount of clout in the American comedy market. In addition to the long-running series and several video games and other tie-in products, South Park had a theatrical release -- South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut -- in 1999. All 23 seasons -- over 300 episodes -- will be available "shortly after launch," Warner announced.
In September, the series was renewed for another three seasons. In the time since, South Park has waded into controvery for about the thousandth time in its 20+ years on the air, siding with pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong who are demanding greater autonomy from mainland China. Along the way, the series also personally mocked China's president and took a (marginally) more subtle jab at U.S. corporations who bend over backwards to do business with the Chinese regime.
That episode, titled "Band in China," was almost immediately banned in China, with the series pulled from the airwaves and scrubbed from Chinese social media. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone responded to the ban with a statement that is perfectly on brand for South Park, using their statement to take a jab not only at the censorship, but at the NBA, who recently apologized after China got upset by criticism of their policies by NBA employees.
South Park heading to HBO Max is not a huge surprise when you consider that Disney+, a fairly close corollary to the WarnerMedia streaming service, has The Simpsons coming, a result of the recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox by Disney. If they had a hold on South Park, Disney would not be able to place it on the Disney+ service, which is decidedly PG-13 and lower. The HBO branding, though, gives WarnerMedia a green light to utilize everything from Sesame Street and Looney Tunes to Joker and South Park.
South Park currently streams on the Disney-owned Hulu.
Heading into Season 22 last year, the entire South Park advertisement campaign was a satirical effort to get the show cancelled, rather than renewed. Obviously that wasn't the actual intention of the show's producers, but Parker and Stone are still keeping the joke going, even after getting three additional seasons.
“Apparently, our efforts to get our own show cancelled have fallen short,” said Parker and Stone. “Luckily, we love Comedy Central and Kent and our staff so we are looking forward to new cancellation opportunities in the next few years.”