Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Wattpad Eyes More Book Adaptations after "The Kissing Booth" Success

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Wattpad Eyes More Book Adaptations after "The Kissing Booth" Success

Article excerpt

A novel idea: Wattpad eyes more adaptations

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Netflix's "The Kissing Booth" may have an approval rating of under 20 per cent from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but it's still one of the most popular movies in the world right now.

The teenage romantic comedy is the latest in a string of successful screen adaptations from self-published writers on Wattpad, a website where aspiring novelists can share their books, often one chapter at a time.

The Toronto-based company wants to branch out beyond e-books and believes it can tap into loyal fanbases and a trove of user data to help movie and TV producers discover the next big hit.

"I think it is an exceptionally unique time in entertainment," said Aron Levitz, head of Wattpad Studios, a roughly two-year-old division that is responsible for taking stories from the website and turning them into adaptations for movies, film, TV, games and any other possible avenue.

He sees opportunity in a world where big budget movies expected to be box office hits fail to turn significant profits, and where television networks cancel many shows after a one-year run -- leaving studios with scarce returns on big investments. Streaming services like Netflix and YouTube have also been pumping out original content to lure traditional movie and TV audiences.

Wattpad determined it could help producers avoid duds by scouring readership data to determine popular texts.

"It isn't using data at any one point in the process," said Levitz. "It's actually using it continually."

In May, the company announced Hulu picked up supernatural thriller "Light as a Feather" for a straight-to-series deal, and Sony Pictures Television acquired the rights to "Death is my BFF."

Wattpad looks at both what readers are reading and writers are writing from millions of subgenres in order to select a story it believes will resonate.

Once a story is selected, the company continues to use data to develop it into marketable content. They may, for example, use reader comments on specific lines or sections of text and opt to eliminate a secondary character from a script if enough readers indicate they didn't love that person. The company profits as a producer, Levitz said, while writers earn money selling the rights to their text. He did not provide further details and, as Wattpad is a private company, would not say how much of their revenue stems from the studio arm.

Wattpad relies on its data to help companies market the projects and reach that promised built-in audience of readers before an adaptation is released to help ensure its success.

"It means we can use that data to motivate audiences to go, go to box offices, turn on streaming services or go to bookstores," said Levitz. …

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