With more than 80 million users and 500 million uploads, storytelling platform Wattpad is sitting on a mountain of potential IP and an active audience—and its new initiative aims to reduce friction in development to churn out movies and TV shows faster.
Today, Wattpad Studios is announcing its Development Fund, which will back early-stage development for select TV and film projects.
Wattpad has seen success with several adaptations including After, The Kissing Booth (Netflix), and Light as a Feather (Hulu). However, as Wattpad Studios head Aron Levitz explains, what makes it past development is a mere fraction of what he believes Wattpad has to offer.
“Because we believe in our audience, because we believe in our data, we thought that it was time to invest and kick-start the process of development on our own,” Levitz says.
And that’s what Levitz thinks will give Wattpad an edge amid the current glut of content.
Wattpad Studios’ newest projects in development through its initiative are Deanna Cameron’s What Happened That Night, and T.L. Bodine’s The Hound, which are being adapted by screenwriters David Arata (Children of Men, Spy Game) and Angela LaManna (The Punisher), respectively.
What Happened That Night follows a woman named Clara after her boyfriend is murdered by her sister. The act sets Clara down a path that she would have preferred to forget, and in a desperate race to absolve her sister’s name, Clara advances ever closer to the dangerous secret of what really happened that night.
In The Hound, antique store owner Liz brings home a Victorian taxidermy hound from auction, unwittingly unleashing dark forces on her wife and son. A series of strange and frightening occurrences begin to tear at the edges of a family under strain—tempting Liz to destroy the ones she loves.
In addition to the Development Fund, Wattpad Studios is leveraging its data around the stories put into development to gauge the potential audience, identify which plot points to play up, and so forth.
“We went from looking at data very one dimensionally—online engagement—to thinking about macro trends: How do certain genres trend globally? Are there certain developments in how people want to be entertained?” Levitz says.
That can range from analyzing the comments in a story’s sections to using AI to understand the emotional ups and downs of a story.
“Development has ostensibly been a black box for years: You take a piece of IP, throw it into a writers’ room, and have them go at it until a screenplay comes out the other side,” Levitz says. “We’ve yet to turn it into more of a glass box where we can listen to the audience during that process and really bring that data to bear.”
In 2019, entertainment companies spent more than $120 billion on original content. However, the question is how many of those TV shows and films actually broke through in a meaningful way?
“You can’t just fill hours now when there’s something amazing on another platform, and everyone’s fighting for the same users,” Levitz says. “[Wattpad’s data] is helping us make smarter decisions during development. [And the Development Fund] is the next step as we look to verticalize Wattpad on a whole in saying, how do we more quickly connect the IP and the universes our users love and bring them to screens all over the world.”