Wattpad, the user-generated fiction platform and entertainment company, announced that it agreed to be acquired by Korean internet conglomerate Naver, parent of digital comics platform Webtoon, in a deal worth more than $600 million.
Seoul-based Naver plans to acquire Wattpad in a cash and stock transaction valued at more than $600 million, subject to customary adjustments and other terms, the companies announced. The deal is expected to close in Q2 2021.
Under the terms of the deal, Wattpad will remain based in Toronto, Canada, under the continued leadership of its co-founders, CEO Allen Lau and chief strategy officer Ivan Yuen. The companies said the deal will “align” Wattpad’s user base of more than 90 million — which includes more than 5 million writers — with Naver’s Webtoon, which averages 72 million monthly active users.
Wattpad says its global community spends more than 23 billion minutes monthly engaged with original stories spanning genres including sci-fi, romance, fantasy and horror. To date, around 1,500 Wattpad stories have been published as books or adapted for TV and film. The company’s Wattpad Studios division has developed TV shows and films with studios like Sony Pictures Television, Picturestart in the U.S., Germany’s Bavaria Fiction, France’s Mediawan, Brazil’s Wise Entertainment, Canada’s CBC and Singapore’s MediaCorp. In 2019, Wattpad launched Wattpad Books, which has published 21 books to date.
Wattpad Studios has more than 50 TV and film adaption projects in development worldwide, including Jessica Cunsolo’s “She’s With Me,” set up as a series with Sony Pictures Television; DeAnna Cameron’s “What Happened That Night,” which is being adapted by Oscar-nominated “Children of Men” screenwriter David Arata; T.L. Bodine’s “The Hound,” which is being scripted by Angela LaManna (Netflix’s “The Haunting of Bly Manor”); and “Float,” a movie based on Kate Marchant’s popular Wattpad teen-romance story, starring Robbie Amell (“Upload”), who is also set to produce. It’s set to be coproduced with Collective Pictures (formerly Colony Pictures), which was behind Netflix’s “Code 8.”
Webtoon, whose webcomics include Rachel Smythe’s “Lore Olympus,” also has a studio division that has worked to adapt original intellectual property in partnerships with the Jim Henson Company; Crunchyroll; Vertigo Entertainment, the production company behind the “It” franchise and “The Lego Movie”; and Bound Entertainment, the global studio led by producer Samuel Ha (“Snowpiercer,” “Okja”).
“Co-founders Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen, and the entire team at Wattpad, have created something special, and we are grateful to have Allen and Ivan continue to lead this fantastic company for us post-acquisition,” Naver CEO Seong-Sook Han said in announcing the deal. She added, “Wattpad’s vision to entertain and connect the world through stories fits perfectly with our vision for Webtoon and Naver’s content brand.”
Wattpad was founded in 2006, based on the idea that “technology would democratize storytelling and that stories are the atomic unit of every type of entertainment,” Wattpad’s Lau said in a statement. “Today’s news is about continuing Wattpad’s journey and taking our business to the next level. We’re thrilled about the prospect of joining the amazing teams at Naver and Webtoon to continue our growth, help more writers make money, and bring new voices to screens and bookstores everywhere.”
Wattpad previously raised $117.8 million from investors in Asia, the U.S. and Canada. The company’s latest round was $51 million in 2018 from Tencent Holdings, BDC, Globe Telecom’s Kickstart Ventures, Peterson Group, Canso, and Raine Ventures. Previous investors include OMERS Ventures, August Capital, Union Square Ventures, Golden Venture Partners, Khosla Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, Northleaf Venture Catalyst Fund and Version One Ventures.
Naver, founded in 1999, operates Korea’s No.1 search engine and largest e-commerce platform and owns other services and brands including Webtoon, Japan’s Line messaging app and the Snow video app.