This app automatically animates popular TV shows and movies for teens, who do everything on their phones

Key Points
  • Episode animates stories for a mobile audience. Its tales have been viewed more than 3 billion times.
  • In addition to 6 million user-creators, companies like Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and stars like Demi Lovato are using the app to reach young female fans.

Millennials may have grown up watching movies and TV, but Gen Z is used to getting their entertainment on mobile.

So to introduce a younger audience to the "Mean Girls" movie franchise, Paramount Pictures turned to mobile app Episode to tell the next chapter in the story.

"The idea behind Episode was to show what does it mean to tell a story on mobile," said Michael Dawson, head of studio at Episode.

Episode hosts choose your own adventure-style animated stories you can view on your phone. Media companies are hoping apps like Episode can help them reach Gen Z teens and young women who are unfamiliar with older films and TV shows they might consider old school.

If you go by the Pew Research Center's definition which would make Gen Z anyone born after 1997, the oldest of the group would have been 7 when Lindsay Lohan's film was released in 2004. More than 70 percent of Episode's users are under 25, and more than 8 out of 10 are female, according to app analytics firm Sensor Tower. Episode has more than 5 million weekly active users, and has clocked in more than 3 billion views globally since it launched in 2014.

The first two "seasons" of the new animated "Mean Girls" on Episode have been viewed by more than 49.6 million unique viewers. In mid-May, a third season of "Mean Girls" was released in conjunction with the 13th anniversary of the film.

Other media companies and artists are also on board. Warner Bros. has used Episode to bring its TV show "Pretty Little Liars" to a mobile audience. Singer Demi Lovato has also used Episode to tell mobile stories to reach more young fans.

The shows are free to watch initially, but some stories require payment to access certain parts. Viewers have spent more than $35.7 million on the app to date, said Sensor Tower. Episode's parent company Pocket Gems — which also made mobile game "War Dragons" — recently raised $90 million in new funding in early May from majority investor Tencent, for a valuation of $500 million.

Episode also allows people to submit scripts that auto-animate their stories, which they can keep to themselves, share with their friends or post publicly. About 6 million people have submitted a story. One of its top user-created stories, "Chain Reaction," has been read more than 60 million times since it was posted in 2016.

Part of why the app is so successful is because it translates stories for a mobile-first audience, Dawson said. The stories are displayed in portrait format, and they allow for interactivity by asking the viewer to tap on various items on the screen. In addition, the stories are short.

"There are a couple pieces to making it mobile-friendly, but one of them is making sure it is in bite-sized chunks," Dawson said. "You can consume it on a bus as well as on your couch."

However, it isn't setting its sights just on the young female demographic. Dawson said the company hopes to widen its trajectory similar to how network The CW was able to expand past its teen audience with shows like "Arrow."

"We don't want to limit ourselves," Dawson said. "Over time, we want to make the stories available to wider audiences."