Cartman & Co. are headed for Netflix, as the movie rental company has signed a deal to stream the first nine seasons of South Park through its Watch Instantly service, reports The New York Times today.
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have already shown their show is a hit online at SouthParkStudios.com, which features 181 episodes and has generated 300 million views since April of last year.
The Times reports that Parker and Stone, who control South Park‘s digital sale and display, met with Hulu and Joost, but went with Netflix because the company offered them cash (and the guys like the service). Parker and Stone split non-TV revenue 50-50 with Comedy Central, the cable channel that carries the show.
The South Park/Netflix deal is interesting on a few fronts. First, it reinforces how aggressively Netflix is going after premium content for its Watch Instantly service. The current crop of content is fine, but definitely lackluster — adding a brand name like South Park should give it a shot in the arm. But Netflix isn’t even getting the content exclusively as South Park episodes are available at SouthParkStudios.com, and for purchase via iTunes and Amazon.
Second, Netflix wanted that content so badly that it paid cash, and cash is king (especially in this turbulent economic environment). Hulu-shmulu. Despite its growing audience, the popular premium content service couldn’t nab the show with the promise of ad revenues.
Finally, are the days of ad-based hyper-distribution being replaced by direct payment hyper-distribution for premium content? Yes, the South Park creators offer free ad-supported content streaming on their own site, but they control the monetization efforts there. When it came time to distribute through a third party, they went with places that sell episodes directly or paid in cash, not promises.
This follows on the heels of Comcast ( s cmcsa) wading into the online video waters, working with the cable networks to offer content online for paying subscribers. And Ad Age reports today on Time Warner’s new “TV Everywhere” initiative that will see its content distributed through many platforms, but require proof of subscription to a cable, satellite or telco TV service.
If this works out for South Park, other creators could soon be telling ad-supported sites, à la Cartman, “Screw you guys, I’m going MSO.”