The Bible-based phenomenon The Chosen reached a new audience this week when the most popular podcast in America – The Joe Rogan Experience – discussed its popularity.
At the time, host Joe Rogan and guest Nate Bargatze – a comedian and professing Christian – were talking about the future of entertainment, bemoaning the notion that corporations like Disney are buying out their competitors.
Rogan theorized that the future of entertainment would involve a "Substack-type situation where you subscribe to individual things that you want."
"There's a show called The Chosen – you heard of that?" Bargatze said.
"No," Rogan said.
Rogan, though, was impressed when he learned about the series and its popularity.
"Holy [expletive]," said Rogan, who is known for his salty language.
The Chosen – which is crowdfunded – has succeeded without a Hollywood studio's support, Bargatze said. Currently in production for its third season, the series tells the story of Jesus and His disciples. It has been streamed worldwide more than 400 million times.
"It's about Jesus," Bargatzke said, adding that he's met the producers of the series.
"It's through the roof how many people have watched the show," he added.
As Rogan and Bargatze discussed The Chosen, someone in the studio loaded the series' website.
"They just made their own app," Bargatze explained. "They made an app called The Chosen, and you went to that app, and you watch that show. And I believe it got millions upon millions of views.
"... They did all the ads behind it," he added. "... It's very word of mouth."
The Chosen is the most successful crowdfunded entertainment project in history. Approximately $10 million was raised for Season 1 and $12 million for Season 2.
"That's wild," Rogan said, referencing the series' popularity apart from a studio. "Do you think that speaks to an opportunity for anyone to do that with any kind of film – or do you think that speaks to a lack of representation of Christian films?"
Bargatze said the series' Christian theme helps its popularity but surmised that it could be duplicated elsewhere, even with – for example – a "Nate Bargatze app," he said.
"The thing that keeps that from happening is it's very expensive to go shoot this stuff and to go do all this stuff," Bargatze said.
Each episode of Rogan's podcast is streamed by an estimated 11 million people.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Rob Kim/Stringer
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.