The agreement is intended to help expand the studios’ business across film, television, animation and other areas.
In recent years, web stories and webcomics have fueled dozens of film and TV series adaptations. As media properties such digital IP is attractive as the stories and webcomics have built-in audiences and continuing fandom, while the platforms they are hosted on possess unique insight in user demographics, geographies and engagement.
Wattpad Webtoon Studios, the unit created to develop that IP, is currently growing its footprint in Hollywood and international entertainment markets. It has seen the launch of a new animation division and made key hires in the U.S. and Europe, including David Madden as head of global entertainment.
“Wattpad Webtoon Studios has seen incredible growth in the past year and we knew we needed an agency that would not only be able to keep up with our rapidly expanding slate, but also provide more opportunities for our projects and creatives,” said Aron Levitz, president of Wattpad Webtoon Studios, in a prepared statement.
The purpose of working with UTA is “a combination of very thoughtful, and careful strategic advice and the wealth of talent that UTA have been able to connect us to,” Madden told Variety.
“They’ve been great about helping us meet writers, producers and filmmakers. People we want to be in business with. And also giving us really good general guidance about how to take all the material we have and try to figure out how to put it together in the best possible way and how to find the best possible homes for it.”
“We already have numerous shows on air. But we truly have the ambition to do a lot more. We want to be bigger in film and in TV. We want to be a major player in the animation world,” said Madden. “It doesn’t mean that every single project we have will have a UTA writer or UTA filmmaker attached to it. There will be things that will invariably come from elsewhere. But clearly our first port of call will be UTA.”
“The wealth of IP from the Webtoon library and the Wattpad library isn’t just enormous in its volume, but also in its impact and its readership. But, while Webtoon and Wattpad are already very well recognized as IP platforms, I wouldn’t say they’re as well recognized as a Marvel or DC. We see this IP platform as being as big if not bigger in the future,” said Max Michael, UTA’s head of Asia business development.
“In Asia, the vast majority of television series are now being based on webtoons and web novel. One of the reasons WWS is so successful is the combination of powerful communication platforms – Naver, Webtoon and Wattpad together it’s arguably the most powerful communication platform in all of Asia. And the rest of the world is just beginning to catch on,” Michael added.
“We have the ambition to mean as much as Marvel and DC. Maybe that sounds presumptuous. But every property on Webtoon is potentially its own universe. And we have properties with so many different tones: things that have every bit of the kind of scale of mythology of the kind of Marvel and DC properties; love stories; romantic comedy; we have coming of age drama; deep character drama,” said Madden.
Wattpad has previously struck a multiplicity of deals with production entities and distributors in Asia, including those in Indonesia, the Philippines and India. WWS also has existing North American partnerships with ViacomCBS International Studios, Fremantle, Leone Film Group, Roy Lee’s Vertigo Entertainment and Constantin Film. WWS and UTA say that their agreement should enhance, not diminish, existing relationships.
“Our job as agents is not just to connect with individual creators, but to really build partnerships and relationships on behalf of our clients,” said Michael. “[WWS] could bring things in house, but even if they did, they couldn’t do everything themselves. There’s always value to partnering with best in class companies, creating new relationships and reinvigorating the relationships that they’ve had for a long time.”
Past web novel to screen adaptations have included “The Kissing Booth,” and “Through My Window” (aka “A través de mi Ventana”), adapted from the Wattpad web novel of the same name by Ariana Godoy, and which was a huge 2022 success for Netflix. Another, LGBTQ coming-of-age drama “Heartstopper” recently confirmed two more seasons on Netflix.
WWS recently wrapped production on “Boot Camp” with Great Pacific Media, adapted from Gina Musa’s 26.5 million-read Wattpad webnovel of the same name.
Other upcoming projects include the feature film adaptation of Claudia Tan’s 85 million-read Wattpad web novel “Perfect Addiction,” set up at Constantin Film and JB Pictures, which aims for theatrical and online premieres, and Kate Marchant’s Wattpad romance “Float,” which has been adapted into a film from WWS, Lionsgate, Collective Pictures and Brightlight Pictures.
UTA’s partner and co-head of media rights Jason Richman and Michael said: “Our partnership with Wattpad Webtoon Studios is guided by a common goal – to celebrate and elevate creators from all walks of life and their unique stories. The studios’ footprint in entertainment continues to grow and we look forward to advancing that momentum by leveraging its powerhouse IP to create new business opportunities across a range of verticals.”