Matt Stone And Trey Parker Expected Fans To Pirate South Park — And Embraced It

If you had asked me in 1997 if I thought "South Park" was going to still be on the air when I reached an age to actually write about it for an online publication, I'd have asked you what "online" meant because I was in the first grade and it was 1997. As I made public knowledge (much to my mother's dismay) in my assessment of the "South Park" Paramount+ movie "The Streaming Wars," I've been watching "South Park" from the very beginning, and have spent way, way too much time analyzing this show's impact on pop culture. As genuine creative provocateurs are continually flushed out of the public eye, it's hard to not want "South Park" to live on, continuing the grand tradition of satire through the lens of offensive and bad taste.

It doesn't seem like "South Park" will be vacating the cultural conversation anytime soon, fortunately, as the show signed a massive $900 million deal with Paramount+ for five new seasons and 14 made-for-streaming movies, bringing the show into its third decade of programming. The show absolutely misses the mark from time to time and crosses the line from provoking to problematic with fervent frequency, but despite the seemingly "stupid" humor of their show, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are easily two of the smartest creators in the industry. Not only is the show's longevity and popularity a sign that they've tapped into something special, their decisions to embrace the evolution of how audiences consume entertainment have kept them ahead of the curve.

Don't fight the pirates

In an interview with Bloomberg, co-creator Matt Stone talked a bit about he and Parker's massive deal with Paramount+, and why he believes they were able to secure the deal in the first place. What many may not know, is that in addition to the episodes streaming on HBO Max and the movies on Paramount+, a variety of their "South Park" episodes across all seasons are available for free online through South Park Studios. "We said, 'Let's put the show online and build that audience,'" Stone said. "If we can own half that, let's just do that." This made fans felt seen, and felt like the creators of their favorite show genuinely wanted to provide for them.

Stone and Parker also knew that much of the "South Park" target audience are the kind of folks who would pirate their show if it wasn't easily accessible, so they made the decision to put the episodes online so there would be no need for piracy. "We built an online audience that was complementary," he continued. 

Well, the strategy absolutely worked, because "South Park" is still as profitable as ever. A quick search of "South Park" on Twitter results in an excess of fanart and fanmade gifs, proving the "South Park" fandom isn't going anywhere anytime soon.