The Road to 100 Million for YouTube’s Two Biggest Powerhouses

If you are familiar with YouTube (which almost everyone should be)—and even if you aren’t—you probably understand what subscribers are. They help a channel gain support, income, and more visibility on YouTube. Most channels have just a few subs, but the most popular channels can surpass millions. Felix Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie, had had the highest subscriber count on YouTube since 2013 until recently, when the Bollywood powerhouse T-Series surpassed him, in a series of events that turned it into much more than a battle for numbers.

The competition all started when, in August 2018, PewDiePie posted a video titled “This channel will overtake PewDiePie,” in which he jokingly rallied his fans against T-Series. Despite having the lead in subscribers at the time, PewDiePie had one serious disadvantage: he’s one guy making videos. T-Series is a whole corporation that does major business producing music and films for the Bollywood market. Soon, fellow YouTubers (and basically anyone with a platform) started showing PewDiePie support: the first of these, Mr. Beast, bought billboards and radio advertisements in North Carolina urging people to subscribe to PewDiePie’s channel. He also created a video of himself saying PewDiePie 100,000 times for 12 hours. Mr Beast and his friends attended this year’s Super Bowl in Atlanta wearing T-shirts reading “Sub 2 PewDiePie” (after not being allowed to bring a banner into the stadium). They were prominently displayed in an ESPN tweet after Pats kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal during the 1st quarter. Other notable YouTubers, such as Markiplier, Jacksepticeye, and Logan Paul have showed their support in the “Sub To PewDiePie” movement. Musician and YouTuber Davie504 even flew all the way to India just to show his support by playing a tune on his guitar dissing T-Series in front of their headquarters.

Some have gone to extreme lengths to show their support for PewDiePie. Two hackers, “HackerGiraffe” and “j3ws3r,” sent printed messages to over 50,000 unsecured printers urging people to subscribe to PewDiePie (and to get their printer fixed). Some hackers even accessed security cameras in people’s homes and used them to urge people to subscribe. [Ed. Note—Jesus Christ.Despite PewDiePie’s own admonition not to do anything illegal to support him, the Brooklyn War Memorial was vandalized in March with graffiti telling people to subscribe; PewDiePie condemned the action and said that he had made a donation to the park. A few weeks later, similar messages, along with some pretty disturbing imagery, ended up on a school in the UK.

Some supporters of T-Series called out PewDiePie for using slurs and offensive language against Indians as a whole, mentioning that, in PewDiePie’s diss track  “B****” Lasagna”, he attacked his competition by saying, “I’m a blue eyes white dragon while you’re just dark magician oof” and “your language sounds like it came from a mumble rap community.” Obviously, Indian YouTubers were not happy about these comments, not to mention that PewDiePie remained ahead of T-Series in subscribes. YouTubers Tatva K, Asif Bantaye, and CarryMinati all responded with their own Hindi diss tracks roasting PewDiePie. The head of T-Series even encouraged all Bollywood singers to have their followers to subscribe to T-Series and make it the most subscribed channel on YouTube.

Oh, and we should probably talk about the Blue Shirt Kid. PewDiePie posted a reaction video on his channel of Indian people being interviewed about PewDiePie vs. T-Series. In the video, most sided with T-Series, supporting their country. However, one kid in a blue shirt was asked whether he preferred PewDiePie or T-Series. He goes on to say this: “Okay, first of all, the YouTube algorithm . . . the top individual creator is since PewDiePie, so it doesn’t make a difference. And even if he’s not, he’s making the same content, it doesn’t matter if he’s above or below T-Series in any way. Not to me at least.” PewDiePie gave this kid a shoutout in his video saying “YouTube, hire this kid!” Blue Shirt Kid’s new found fame and understanding of YouTube’s algorithm have made him one of the best memes of 2019.

The subscriber battle was certainly hard fought, but on April 14th, 2019 T-Series overtook PewDiePie in subscribers when they released a new song featuring American rapper Pitbull. At the time of writing, T-Series is almost 2,700,000 subscribers ahead of PewDiePie. In a recent video, PewDiePie called off the competition, saying that it is best if the “Sub to PewDiePie” movement comes to an end. PewDiePie may have lost, but he still put up a great fight in the biggest subscriber battle in YouTube history and his legacy on the platform still remains alive.