World's Largest Story-Sharing Site Pushes Into Movie Business

  • Wattpad plans to co-produce movies and TV shows with Hollywood
  • `I can tell you what’s hotter: werewolfs or vampires'

Canada's Hottest Startup Goes to Hollywood

Canada’s Wattpad, the world’s largest online community of amateur writers, is setting up a production studio to turn its stories into movies and TV shows in collaboration with Hollywood.

Entrance to the Wattpad office in Toronto.

Photographer: Kevin Van Paassen/Bloomberg

The move is part of Wattpad’s goal of pulling revenue from its user base of 45 million writers and readers. Over the past year the Toronto-based firm has also recruited its most popular writers to create branded stories for companies like Coca-Cola Co., AT&T Inc. and Mondelez International Inc. Wattpad is the brand name of WP Technology Inc.

Wattpad’s site features thousands of stories ranging from tales about vampires and boy bands to romantic trysts. Some of those writers have used it as a platform to win book and movie deals like Anna Todd, whose “After” fan-fiction novels loosely based on the band One Direction, are being made into a film by Paramount Pictures Corp.

Wattpad Studios, as the initiative is called, will help formalize that process and identify trends and themes popular among its user base, 95 percent of which is under 30, said Aron Levitz, who is leading the project.

“I can tell you what’s hotter: werewolfs or vampires,” Levitz said by phone. Stories that are already popular on Wattpad have built-in audiences that remove some of the risk of putting money into a new production, he said. Wattpad has signed deals with United Talent Agency Inc., Paramount and TV5 Network Inc.

Audiences Choose

Wattpad Chief Executive Officer Allen Lau said the company isn’t yet profitable but that the studios project will play a “large role in getting us there.” The company doesn’t need additional funding at this point after raising $67 million from investors including the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System and Union Square Ventures, Lau said.

Wattpad employees meet in the kitchen.

Photographer: Kevin Van Paassen/Bloomberg

Working with Wattpad to source writers and ideas may also help Hollywood increase the diversity of the stories it tells, Levitz said. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that selects Oscar winners, came under fire this year after nominating only white actors.

“We don’t choose what becomes big, audiences do,” Levitz said.