There are plenty of apps that keep you notified of when new episodes of shows you like are released. Tratk or Hobi are just two of many that track thousands of shows and send you reminders before the latest (insert show here) is available.
These apps are handy, and even offer AI-guided suggestions on what other shows you might be interested in. But not everyone has subscriptions to multiple streaming services. The list of “watch for free” apps and sites is long, but each one has limitations… and ads. Hoopla is a web and mobile site that might be among the best of those offering content for free.
It’s sort of like a library and they claim to have 500,000 pieces of content – titles of everything from audiobooks to movies – available for you to stream or “borrow.” Hoopla is pretty cool, but you need to sign up, choose a library near you and enter your library card number. There is still content available for people without cards or who live overseas, but there are limitations.
If you wanted to ensure hundreds of millions – if not billions – of people watched your content, you’d do well to follow the model of The Chosen, an app and series that’s sweeping the globe. No ads, no sign-up, just install and watch.
Of course, the folks behind The Chosen app have an agenda. It’s a Jesus app that tells the story of Christ’s time on earth…mostly through the vantage point of the people who met and followed him as laid out in the New Testament.
But here’s the thing: this openly Christian app/series has a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and scores in the high 90s across other rating sites. One can’t argue that every single reviewer is a devout Christian. So, what’s driving the buzz? Partially it’s the app itself, it’s well-thought-out, easy-to-use, and fast: it takes about 25 seconds to install. There are extras, global viewing parties when new episodes come out (season two debuted Easter Sunday 2021), and “behind the scenes” looks at the filming of episodes, etc.
Originally released in December of 2019, Fox Nation has just made the first season of The Chosen available on its subscription service. But as noted, season two is already airing via the show’s stand-alone streaming app and on The Chosen’s YouTube site, and its Facebook page. Whew. These people really want you to see their content… for free; and people are watching, with 130+ million streams recorded across the app and YouTube site.
The show is about as far away from “religious” as you can get while still telling the story of the man Christians believe was God’s son and their redeemer. The disciples are interesting, playful, imperfect – in a word “human.” As is the man himself.
Jesus, played by Jonathan Roumie, an actor in his late 40s who’s been in shows such as Ballers, Chicago Med, and Death Stranding, pulls together a portrayal of a Jesus who’d be nice to hang out with – even at a bar. The show is – a “historical drama” rather than another “Life of Christ” attempt, and the drama is abundant.
We see the characters interacting in ways that feel… well, again, “human.” In one scene Jesus lightly teases a disciple whose dancing skills are described as akin to watching “a donkey walking on hot coals.”
When the wine runs out at the famous water-into-wine wedding, you can feel the panic and shame of the bride and groom as they debate watering down the remaining booze – an idea that probably would have crossed your mind had you been in the same situation.
The Chosen is now the largest crowdfunded film project of all time, and the way they raised those funds was unlike any idea we’ve heard of before: Termed “Equity crowdfunding,” it works like this: you get one share per dollar invested.
You may not sell your shares, but stockholders are forever partial owners and stand to make money from licensing and DVDs, etc. Distributed by Angel Studios, the production team made the unheard-of promise to only take money for themselves after stockholders make a minimum of 120 percent on their investments.
The success of The Chosen might have some in Hollywood wondering if it could be mimicked, but the answer is probably not. You’d need some pretty darn committed investors, and the studio and producers are unlikely to offer to forego compensation until everyone else makes above and beyond their contributions.
The Chosen is a unique app/series that director Dallas Jenkins (son of the “Left Behind” novels co-writer) no doubt hopes to bring his idea of Jesus to the masses; and he may well end up converting some.
But the production value, the sets, the acting, and the storytelling have already won over even religious skeptics as The Chosen is quality TV and a good app; and proves you can tell “religious” stories without being boring or preachy.