PewDiePie is used to the spoils of success on YouTube. Sure, he’s had a few misfires over the last few years, but his channel has managed to hold the coveted Number.1 spot as the most popular channel on the streaming media platform for nearly half a decade now.
It’s looking increasingly likely that this situation may change. Comparative newcomer, T-Series is rapidly catching up, and may even have jumped ahead by the time you read this. There is even a live YouTube feed devoted to keeping everybody up-to-date as the two channels battle for the top position.
At the time of writing, PewDiePie had 88,384,558 subscribers and T-Series 88,346,962. Both channels are gaining subscribers so rapidly, that each channel grew by around 20 subscribers in the time it took to type the last sentence.
PewDiePie and T-Series are very different channels, however. There will be little overlap in the supporters of both channels.
Who is PewDiePie?
PewDiePie, known as Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg off the internet, is a Swedish YouTuber, comedian, and video game commentator, who has built a highly successful YouTube channel from 2010. His channel found support quickly, and in August 2013 became the most subscribed channel on YouTube. PewDiePie’s channel also held the record for most views from 29 December 2014 to 14 February 2017.
The bulk of his videos are Let’s Play-style video game commentaries, intermingled with live-action and animated comedy shorts and comic vlogs that concentrate on irreverent culture. Some of his videos attracted controversy, however, due to their non-PC nature. This controversy came to a head in 2017 when he posted a couple of allegedly anti-Semitic videos, which caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal, which carried out an expose into PewDiePie’s videos. As a result, he was dropped by his multi-channel network, Disney-owned Maker Studios, and faced restrictions from YouTube’s owner, Google.
PewDiePie kept his main support base, however, and has continued to upload videos to his YouTube channel. He has continued to attract controversy, however, which probably slowed the increase in subscriptions to his channel. It definitely affected his channel views, and he has dropped from first place to tenth over the last two years.
Who is T-Series?
If PewDiePie has a YouTube superstar name, T-Series was until recently far less well-known — outside the Indian sub-continent at least.
T-Series is the trading name for an Indian music record label and film production company, Super Cassettes Industries Private Limited. As the company’s formal name suggests, it’s been around for a while, having been founded in 1983.
Although it took a few years for the company to produce a hit record, film soundtrack, Aashiqui, sold more than 20 million copies, making it the best-selling Indian soundtrack album of all time.
T-Series changed its music distribution methods with the times and discovered that the widespread popularity of YouTube became essential to assist with music sales. They joined YouTube in 2006 but only began uploading videos in 2010. They built a multi-channel network on YouTube, with their main channel, T-Series, becoming their most popular.
This channel primarily features Bollywood-type music videos as well as film trailers. It exceeded PewDiePie’s record for most views in February 2017 and is now well ahead with nearly 64 billion video views.
The Race to the Top Began
Because the two channels are so different and cater to entirely different audiences, the success of T-Series was not immediately apparent. Their subscribers simply increased at a higher rate than PewDiePie’s month after month.
It was only in October 2018 that research firm Tubular Labs made a public prediction that T-Series would overtake PewDiePie’s (then) 67 million subscribers by the end of the month. This stunned many Westerners who had never heard of T-Series or its channels.
Of course, it shouldn’t have come as such a great surprise. T-Series had already held the Most Views record for a year and a half at this point.
PewDiePie Rallied His Supporters to Keep the Top Spot
Once PewDiePie discovered he was in danger of losing his crown he rallied his supporters to help build his subscriber base. This led to a closely fought (albeit one-sided) battle, which continues to this day.
On the 28th August 2018, PewDiePie posted a video, This Channel Will Overtake PewDiePie. In this video, he asked his followers to fight back. He dissed T-Series and challenged them to “fight to the death” with a sword challenge. As he didn’t expect T-Series to take up the sword fight, he implored his supporters to find people to sign up for the channel. PewDiePie even, tongue-in-cheek, implored his “army of 9-year-olds” to stop T-Series from becoming the biggest channel on YouTube.
T-Series Has a Few Advantages
The fact that T-Series has uploaded 13,179 videos, compared to PewDiePie’s 3,770 gives them a significant advantage in the YouTube statistics. This is helped by them having a team of 13 people running their channels. T-Series can upload up to six videos per day, while PewDiePie would be lucky to produce two.
PewDiePie created a loyal and passionate group of YouTube supporters over the last five years. However, most of his target demographic are already subscribers. Most of his future subscribers will probably be younger people finding his channel for the first time. Unfortunately for him, this is partly counter-balanced by his older supporters feeling they have outgrown him and unsubscribing.
T-Series, however, hails from India — a country with a population of 1.3 billion people, which is only just beginning its smartphone boom and internet revolution. The country is still obsessed with Bollywood, and T-Series gives them an additional outlet where they can explore this fascination.
The “War” Intensified Both Online and Offline
PewDiePie’s “challenge” video was at least partially successful. Subscribers to his channel increased, and T-Series did not overtake his channel on October 29th, as Tubular Labs predicted. However, it only delayed what now seems inevitable.
PewDiePie’s fans made their views very clear in comments on T-Series videos. Typical comments included:
- “You dare challenge the king? ”
- “A L E X A D E L E T E T H I S C H A N N E L ”
- “War is coming… prepare yourself T-series and your terrible content “
- “Everyone needs to downvote this video.”
PewDiePie’s supporters overran the comments of many of T-Series videos and regularly gave them dislike votes.
Fellow YouTubers, such as Logan Paul and Mr. Beast made videos asking their audiences to subscribe. Mr. Beast went as far as buying radio ads and billboards promoting PewDiePie’s channel. He carried out a 12-hour live streaming stunt where he said “PewDiePie” 100,000 times. Logan Paul promised to donate to charity if his supporters subscribed to PewDiePie’s channel.
The main reason PewDiePie received the support of his fellow YouTube rivals was that they didn’t like the idea of the top YouTube channel going to a company, rather than an individual.
Some PewDiePie supporters even took their protest offline, sticking up posters around their home cities, that asked people to subscribe to the PewDiePie channel.
According to the BBC, many of the posters were supposedly printed as a result of PewDiePie supporters hacking “tens of thousands of printers to print out messages and posters urging people to subscribe to him.”
His supporters reportedly made a more severe high-profile of the Wall Street Journal site, in retaliation to them writing the first and most damaging expose on PewDiePie in 2017. For a while, the Wall Street Journal site said they were now sponsoring PewDiePie in his attempt to beat T-Series in the battle for subscribers.
Some of the fans even set up online petitions demanding the removal of T-Series from YouTube for being a “threat to individual creators,” a “monolithic dictatorship of YouTube analytics” and a “greedy corporation.” Unsurprisingly, YouTube ignored these petitions.
PewDiePie’s Supporters Delayed the Change at the Top
To some extent, PewDiePie’s supporters were successful in their actions. PewDiePie’s monthly subscriber account grew by 700% over three months. October 29th came and went, without T-Series taking the crown.
PewDiePie gained 7 million subscribers over the entirety of 2017. However, his supporters’ actions resulted in more than 13 million people signing up between September and December 2018, 6.62 million people in December alone (700% higher than his September subscribers).
But surely this could only delay him losing the title, at best. PewDiePie’s supporters created an excellent one-off boost to his channel’s support. But nothing indicated that this would be a new start for continued growth.
T-Series still has a considerable advantage because of India’s increasingly technology-focused population. As smartphones boom, and Bollywood remains popular, T-Series will continue to gain new followers.
T-Series is now very near to taking the title. The channels are very close indeed. Once T-Series took PewDiePie’s video views record, they kept on growing their lead, to the point now that the two channels aren’t even close. It will be interesting to see if things take a similar pattern, once T-Series takes the title for being the channel with most supporters.
Check out this YouTube realtime subscriber count to see who has the largest YouTube channel in the world. Click here.