Toronto social publishing platform Wattpad has announced a partnership with Universal Cable Productions, a division of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, to develop original content for TV, meaning that the global Wattpad community will have a hand in deciding what people watch on television.
The Wattpad user base has shared over 300 million original stories over the past decade, since the company’s founding in 2006.
“Ivan (Yuen) and I launched Wattpad a decade ago so people could read on their mobile devices and share their stories with each other easily,” said Wattpad co-founder and CEO Allen Lau. “As we celebrate 10 years as a company, our initial idea has grown into something far greater. Today, Wattpad is one of the most-engaged global communities online. More importantly, we’re a new entertainment company that provides considerable value to traditional industry players like studios, production companies, and publishers.”
The free Wattpad app lets an audience of at least 40 million people discover and share stories generated by more than 2.3 million monthly users in over 50 languages.
User-generated content represents one of the major shifts in the media and advertising landscape in the past five years or so, and Wattpad was one of the first to actually place non-professional content providers in the position of supplying material for mainstream media properties.
In 2014, Wattpad teamed up with the Kapatid Network, produced by TV5 in the Philippines, on a prime-time daily drama called Wattpad Presents, serializing many of the characters and situations written by Wattpad’s Philippine user base.
In April of this year, the company launched Wattpad Studios, a multi-channel network (MCN) to co-produce stories for print, film, television, and digital platforms with strategic media partners, including United Talent Agency, Paramount Pictures, and the TV5 Network in the Philippines, appointing Aron Levitz as its head.
“At UCP we’re always looking for ways to find untapped, unsigned, talent and budding writers from around the U.S. and world. Enter Wattpad – an amazing global storytelling platform that not only allows us access to great stories, but also real time data on what is trending, shared, reviewed and resonating with readers,” said Dawn Olmstead, Executive Vice President of Development for Universal Cable Productions. “Aron and his team manage a virtual fountain of story with great aplomb and we’re excited to dive into their content.”
The UCP partnership will provide the studio with access to user-generated content, discovering stories through custom data and insights provided by Wattpad across multiple genre categories, including mystery/thriller, teen, science fiction, action, and general fiction, with the potential to break those stories to a mass media television audience.
The first mainstream media deal signed by Wattpad with an American studio was a partnership announced in June with Ted Turner’s TNT and TBS (Turner Network Television and Turner Broadcasting System) to adapt the platform’s fan fiction works for executive producer M. Night Shyamalan’s Tales From The Crypt TV show, scheduled to premiere in 2017, as well as for the networks’ digital and mobile platforms, a deal that was brokered by Wattpad’s partner in the entertainment space, United Talent Agency.
With a $17.3 million investment from Khosla Ventures in 2012, followed by an endorsement from Margaret Atwood in 2013, Wattpad has achieved a momentum that has legitimized it as a social networking hub for self-publishers, and now a media partner for established networks and programming producers.
To date, Wattpad has raised approximately $66.8 million in venture capital funding, from investors including August Capital, Golden Venture Partners, Khosla Ventures, Northleaf Capital Partners, OMERS Ventures, Raine Ventures, Union Square Ventures and W Media Ventures.