The Bible-based hit streaming series The Chosen has gained a worldwide fanbase and critical acclaim despite a distribution model – it's free – that would be rejected in most Hollywood circles.
Even so, the executives behind the series say the crowdfunded, free-distribution model is key to its success.
New seasons of the series can be viewed within The Chosen app or the Angel Studios app, each of which gives viewers the option to fund the show. Yet only about 5 percent of viewers opt to give money, said Katherine Warnock, head of original content for The Chosen.
More than 100 million people worldwide have watched the series.
It is in its third season.
"The Chosen actually, originally, was a subscription-based model, but it completely didn't work," Warnock told Christian Headlines.
The series didn't go viral, she said, until filmmakers and executives decided, "We're just going to be free with this exceptional content."
"And we're going to trust God that if [viewers] want this out there and if we remain faithful to what you've asked of us, that all seven seasons will be made," she said.
Brad Pelo, president of The Chosen, said the unique model works for the series because of its gospel-centric message.
"It works for The Chosen because The Chosen is a story of generosity," Pelo told Christian Headlines. "It's a story of Christ, God, [who] came to earth to be with us, and then [who did] something for us we couldn't do for ourselves. At the heart of the story is the spirit of paying it forward. It's a spirit of doing for someone else something they may not be able to do for themselves. So it's possible [that] this will never work again [for other series]. It's possible that it works because of the spirit of the story."
Warnock said the distribution model attracts viewers who otherwise would not be able to watch it: "We get messages all day long [that say,] 'I could never have afforded a subscription. I could never have afforded even a movie ticket. I couldn't afford HBO or Netflix, but because you've made it free, my whole family is now having conversations about Jesus – thank you so much.'
"No one here is actually trying to make a profit off of it," Warnock told Christian Headlines. "We're trying to sustain [it]."
The series recently partnered with a new nonprofit, the Come and See Foundation, that aims to translate it into 600 languages worldwide. The foundation owns The Chosen app.
The Chosen to Be Translated into 600 Languages under New Partnership
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The Chosen Stuns Hollywood by Opening at No. 3: 'We're Shocking the Industry'
Photo courtesy: ©Angel Studios
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.