WME is getting some religion. In a first for Hollywood, the agency has signed global megachurch Hillsong to its client roster. Although WME already is home to celebrity pastors T.D. Jakes and Joel Osteen as well as Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s faith-focused LightWorkers Media shingle, Hillsong marks the first known instance of a major agency working on behalf of a church itself. But the massive, media-savvy Hillsong is an ideal brand for capturing the faith-based market.
The Pentecostal church, which draws nearly 100,000 attendees to its rock concert-like services in 11 countries around the world each week, is a favorite among young celebrity churchgoers. Justin Bieber has tweeted that he “broke down” after hearing a sermon at Hillsong’s New York City location (where he has been spotted with Kendall Jenner). Vanessa Hudgens has sung onstage during Hillsong’s worship services, and Selena Gomez, a regular at Hillsong’s newest location at downtown Los Angeles’ Belasco Theater, recently shared her Instagram cover of Hillsong’s No. 1 Billboard Christian Songs hit “Oceans.”
Founded in Australia in 1983 by married pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston, Hillsong gained popularity through its pop-style worship music; it has sold more than 12 million records worldwide and its original compositions are mainstays in contemporary-style churches around the world. Hillsong’s annual conferences draw more than 20,000 attendees to hear a variety of Christian speakers and musical guests.
WME will help the church, which has more than 10 million social media followers and 9 million annual visitors to its website, expand its TV viewership of more than 10 million globally (in the U.S., services can be viewed on multiple cable channels). The agency also will work to find film and digital opportunities. Warner Bros. had been set to release Let Hope Rise, a documentary about its worship band, in April, but distribution talks fell through in January.
A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.