Yet more activity in the webcomics portal space: Wattpad and WEBTOON have merged their studios division to create Wattpad WEBTOON Studios. WEBTOON’s parent, Naver, will commit $100 million for development and production financing. It’s billed as a “fan driven media powerhouse,” that will develop both webcomics and fiction in media and publishing.
WEBTOON is a website that collects webcomics — mostly read on mobile devices. Wattpad is an app/website that does much the same for prose works. Together, they have an audience of more than 166 million people.
And as noted by Wattpad co-founder Allen Lau, “YA and comic adaptations are some of the biggest hits in publishing and entertainment. And Wattpad WEBTOON Studios has one of the biggest libraries of both on the planet.”
The new combined studio will be led by Wattpad’s Aron Levitz, who will have the title of president. Taylor Grant will lead the WEBTOON entertainment portfolio, Eric Lehrman will lead the Wattpad entertainment portfolio, Ashleigh Gardner will continue to lead all aspects of publishing, and Dexter Ong will lead international business.
A little background: Naver, which is based in Korea, recently aquired Wattpad for about $600 million. Another giant Korean tech company, Kakao, recently aquired Tapas Media, another webcomics portal, for $510 million, and Radish, another serialized fiction app, for $440 million.
Obviously these two giants are marshaling their forces to become massive online storytelling platforms and media production companies — and both have money to invest.
“We’re bringing a new era of diverse voices and incredible IP to audiences and an industry looking for both,” said Aron Levitz, President of Wattpad WEBTOON Studios. “Businesses are spending billions of dollars to capture the last 100 years of IP. We’re looking to the future, with hundreds of millions of new stories to power the next 100 years of hits on screens and bookshelves.”
“Wattpad WEBTOON Studios is here to knock down every remaining border in entertainment,” said WEBTOON founder and CEO, Jun Koo Kim. “The team at Wattpad WEBTOON Studios is developing IP across formats, building franchises, and nurturing the fandoms that power them. And they’re doing it with a full global perspective from Day One. Combining local market expertise and audience data, Wattpad WEBTOON Studios can create local hits with regional partners or develop with a global audience in mind.”
Wattpad WEBTOON Studios has an unmatched library of IP, powered by a new generation of creators, and the technology to create hits in every genre. We’re thrilled to combine WEBTOON and Wattpad’s IP leadership to create the world’s first truly modern studio,” noted Lau.
“Stories from Wattpad and WEBTOON are already in demand and known as some of the most exciting IP in the entertainment market,” said Michelle Kwon, CEO of Studio N. “We’re thrilled to celebrate the launch of Wattpad WEBTOON Studios, and look forward to collaborating with the new team.”
Wattpad WEBTOON Studios already has more than 100 projects in development or production, including Netflix’s WEBTOON-originated Sweet Home; Noblesse, an anime co-production between WEBTOON and Crunchyroll; and the upcoming Netflix Original Film A Traves de Mi Ventana from Nostromo Pictures, based on the global Wattpad hit of the same name. The Kissing Booth, another Netflix production, was based on Beth Reekles’s story for Wattpad.
Both platforms already have had huge reach: Webtoon’s Tower of God has 4.5 billion reads globally and an anime adaptation on Crunchyroll. Wattpad’s After has more than 1.5 billion reads and became a novel from Simon & Schuster and a film franchise.
Both companies have also had publishing success including the upcoming PRH version of Rachel Smythe’s webcomic Lore Olympus. And Wattpad has worked with Hachette in France, Penguin Random House UK, Mondadori Group in Italy, Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial in Spain, AST in Russia, and Anvil Publishing in the Philippines.
Anyway, you get the picture: There is a lot of IP to be developed, including these current projects:
- Float, which will star and be produced by Robbie Amell
- What Happened That Night, currently being adapted by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter David Arata;
- The Hound, with a script by Angela LaManna (Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor);
- The Bad Boy’s Girl, with Leone Film Group;
- Perfect Addiction with Constantin Film and JB Pictures.
Your move, Kakao!