Industry Notes: Wattpad and Viu in Partnership; Yellow Bird Options ‘Spotify Untold’

In News by Porter Anderson

Toronto-based Wattpad announces another international content development deal for Asian markets, and Sweden’s Bonnier has a film option from Yellow Bird UK for the book ‘Spotify Untold.’

Image: Viu Originals

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Ong: ‘Global Storytelling Trends’
In yet another of its growing portfolio of international film- and television-development partnerships, Canada’s Wattpad has announced today (August 21) an arrangement with Asian content provider Viu to produce series for Viu Original branding and film projects based on content from the Wattpad platform.

Viu is an “over-the-top” video streaming service operated by Hong Kong-based PCCW Media Group in 17 markets including Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar in Asia, the Middle East countries of Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the newly launched South Africa.

Wattpad‘s user base in the Asian Pacific region is reported to be at 22 million users—worldwide, the platform now cites 80 million active monthly users. Ninety percent of the Wattpad universe is Millennial or Generation Z, and the overwhelming majority of users are female.

The core attraction in all of Wattpad’s widening array of monetization and content-development plays is the concept of the built-in audience already committed to a story serialized on the platform. What publishers, producers, and studios all see are those massive read numbers–millions of eyeballs for this and that title and chapter.

Viu, according to its media messaging, has been expanding its originals output in recent years. A key adaptation of Hans Rosenfeldt’s Scandinavian crime series The Bridge, for example, has been featured on HBO Asia’s channels and services in a remake set in Singapore and Malaysia. Viu reportedly expects to have more than 80 scripted and unscripted Viu Original titles by the end of the year.

In a prepared statement, Wattpad’s co-founding CEO Allen Lau is quoted, saying, “Viu is a leader in bringing diverse, high-quality entertainment to audiences, while also creating new models for people to experience great storytelling. Viu knows what people love to watch, and its forward-looking approach is what makes it an ideal partner for Wattpad.”

Dexter Ong, who heads up Wattpad Studios’ Asian division based in Hong Kong, is also quoted, saying, “Viu understands the massive opportunities for tapping into global storytelling trends and bringing them to life in new formats.”

Speaking for Viu Philippines, its country manager Ari Kader-Cu says, “Gen Z and Millennials are zealous consumers of online content. We know that young Viu-ers are not only listening to pop music and watching teen drama, they’re also making their own stories and reading other young writers’ stories on Wattpad. So we collaborate with Wattpad to transform these stories that they love into another format, not only to reach audiences who primarily consume video content but also to celebrate the stories that the youth create.”

Viu’s parent company, PCCW Ltd., is based in Hong Kong and casts a wide net, with services including local telephony, local data and broadband, international telecommunications, mobile, and other telecommunications businesses such as customer premises equipment sale, outsourcing, consulting, and contact centers.

Levin: ‘Reality Thumping Fiction’

From London comes a Tuesday announcement (August 20) from Bonnier Rights’ Andersson Madelene, who tells us that Berna Levin’s Yellow Bird UK—the British installation of the Swedish production company Yellow Bird—has optioned Spotify Untold (Spotify Inifrån), which recounts the development of the streaming service.

The book is by Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud, and is published by Albert Bonniers Förlag. International translation rights have been sold so far into the Czech Republic (Jan Melvil), Japan (Diamond Inc.), and South Korea (Business Books).

If there’s such a genre as Corporate Startup Melodrama, Spotify Untold inhabits it, the breathless promotional copy about the book reading: “Based on the tell-all book, the drama will examine how a secretive start-up wooed record companies, shook the music industry to its core, and conquered Wall Street. A tale of tech entrepreneurship, this is a journey beset with egos, obstacles, and betrayal.

“Central to the series is Spotify’s turbulent journey into the US market; a chess match between the new kids and the old guard, with Steve Jobs himself stepping in to frustrate their progress. The Swedes had a secret weapon in the form of playboy billionaire and Napster founder, Sean Parker.

“Jobs, meanwhile, sent in ally and music guru Jimmy Iovine to poach Spotify’s employees to Beats Music, soon to be Apple Music and Spotify’s primary rival. With a number of other obstacles along the way, the show taps into the cut-throat and rapidly evolving industry in which this major player sits as the kingmaker.”

Levin, as executive producer, is quoted, saying, “Spotify Untold is the ultimate tale of achieving the impossible and unimaginable. A modern-day David vs. Goliath set in the dynamic arena of the music industry, this is the true story of youth challenging the establishment. With reality trumping fiction at every turn, we will explore one of the greatest and most surprising technological advancements of our time.”

Luke Franklin is to produce and authors Carlsson and Leijonhufvud are listed as consultants on the project. Stockholm’s Yellow Bird is the company behind Netflix’s Young Wallander series. Yellow Bird’s parent company is Banijay Group.

More from Publishing Perspectives on books and film is here. More from us on Wattpad is here, and more in our Industry Notes series is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.