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Brief Published: 22 Dec 2021

ViacomCBS Takes Wattpad Stories to Streaming

Netflix series The Kissing Booth started life on Wattpad

Social writing platform Wattpad (owned by South Korean tech giant Naver) has teamed up with US media giant ViacomCBS to adapt its most popular stories into original TV series.

Wattpad is a free-to-use platform where authors publish their original work or fanfiction online. The company claims more than 90 million monthly users, with nearly one billion stories published that amass 23 billion minutes per month in total reading time. This sizeable audience makes Wattpad a lucrative storytelling incubator.

Wattpad uses its proprietary algorithm, called StoryDNA, to pull out stories that have the right ingredients to become hits on-screen. In 2016, it launched its own in-house production company, Wattpad Studios, to surface projects from its community that it could develop through major entertainment companies. Young Adult-targeted movies like Netflix’s The Kissing Booth (part two had 66 million viewers in its first month), and the After series, both first found their audiences as Wattpad works.

As franchises, cinematic universes and reboots of beloved classics dominate the new-release slates of industry giants like Disney, original storytelling is becoming a premium product for competitors to distinguish themselves. Wattpad’s insight into the stories that compel its audience (the majority of whom are millennials and Gen Zers) lets ViacomCBS take over narratives that have built-in fans.

Wattpad’s accessible publishing tools have enabled a diverse community, letting StoryDNA’s artificial intelligence uncover writers from beyond Hollywood’s usual talent pools. In our 2021 Look Ahead, we predicted that radically new voices were set to remake entertainment.

This year, the blockbuster success of niche and cross-cultural content like the sudden mainstreaming of US Southern Colleges’ Rush Week (see The Brief) and Netflix’s Squid Game confirmed audiences’ hunger for diversified content. See Pop Culture Pulse: New Entertainment Frontiers for more.