One of America’s biggest studios is planning to milk content from Wattpad Webtoon authors – many of whom have never published a regular print book or even a regular ebook – and the stories will be streamed on Paramount+.

There are certain aspects of the publishing industry western publishers struggle with. Online reading and digital streaming among them.

With many publishers still tentatively juggling the often conflicting demands of print vs digital books, of bricks & mortar vs online retail, of streaming, and even audio (just look at the ridiculously tiny fraction of books that are available in audio format) it’s been a relief that that other menace to civilised publishing, online reading, has been kept firmly at bay in the Far East.

One less thing to worry about. Until now.

Online reading has of course actually been encroaching on western publishing for a long while, and some publishers, Penguin Random House among them, are not averse to stepping in to partner with online reading platforms like Wattpad when they see a serious best-seller opportunity.

Coming the other way, the likes of China Literature has been slowly but surely extending its tentacles across the continents, as have South Korean media giants like Naver and Kakao.

But looking the other way is no longer an option as Naver-owned Wattpad Webtoon Studios partners with the USA’s very own ViacomCBS, with the very clear aim of developing Wattpad Webtoon content for the ViacomCBS streaming service Paramount+.

Per the press release, the new deal is a partnership to,

Source emerging content and creatives from around the world to develop a slate of original series based on hit Wattpad and WEBTOON stories.

Under the deal, Wattpad WEBTOON Studios and ViacomCBS International Studios will work together to identify stories from Wattpad and WEBTOON’s deep global IP libraries of digital comics and stories from some of the world’s most exciting indie authors. Wattpad WEBTOON Studios and ViacomCBS International Studios’ production arm, VIS, will co-produce content for ViacomCBS’ networks and platforms, including its global premium streaming service Paramount+.

Ouch! Here is western publishing, defiantly looking the other way from online reading and defiantly looking the other way from streaming, and one of America’s biggest studios is planning to milk content from Wattpad Webtoon authors – many of whom have never published a regular print book or even a regular ebook – and the stories will be streamed on Paramount+.

That in turn will of course drive new readers to platforms like Wattpad Webtoon who previously likely had no idea online reading was even a thing. And it will drive authors to Wattpad Webtoon who previously had bought into the long-since debunked fallacy that Wattpad is a fandom site for young girls.

Nor is this just a threat to American publishers’ cosy existence. Paramount+ is currently available in “selected markets” but with expansion in 2022 Paramount is set to launch across Europe and will draw on Wattpad Webtoon to identify Original Content prospects.

Through the partnership with Wattpad WEBTOON Studios, ViacomCBS International Studios (VIS) will gain access to data-backed insights and top IP from WEBTOON’s global catalogue of mega-hit digital comics and novels from diverse indie authors on Wattpad. With Wattpad WEBTOON Studios’ audience geography and sentiment insights, the companies will identify local and regional hits with global appeal, spanning Latin America, Europe, the UK, and other international markets.

The deal positions VIS to develop some of the most exciting and unique IP in the world from WEBTOON and Wattpad, spanning a range of genres, and with built-in Gen Z and millennial global fandoms.

Wattpad Webtoon has a global user-base of 166 million people – equivalent to half the population of the USA – and currently has over 100 projects in development or production around the world.

PRH is one of the major western publishers that has previously partnered with Wattpad (prior to it being bought out by Naver to become Wattpad Webtoon) and it will be interesting to see how that relationship develops as Wattpad Webtoon becomes more widely known in the mainstream western markets.

One of the next developments in Wattpad Webtoon’s evolution is likely to be a move into mainstream ebooks and audio (just as it already has with print) and from there a concerted effort to get Wattpad Webtoon reading/listening content on mainstream ebook and audiobook retail and streaming platforms to compliment its content that will be rolled out on Paramount+.

Wattpad, pre-Webtoon, is of course no stranger to streaming services, with content adapted by Netflix and Vidio.

Read the Wattpad Webtoon press release here.