Who holds the crown for the most subscribers on YouTube?
YouTube has an ongoing battle to determine which channel has the most subscribers: PewDiePie or T-Series.
The top spot has been held for the last 7 years by the 28-year-old Sweedish born Felix Kjellberg, better known by his screen name PewDiePie.
Kjellberg rose to YouTube’s top spot back in 2013 as he gained popularity in the “let’s play” category of the video platform, creating videos of himself playing popular video games such as Minecraft and getting scared while playing horror-themed games. The draw to this content came as Kjellberg overreacted to his games in a foul-mouthed fashion, attracting a large subscriber base. His popularity is also attributable to maintaining an almost daily upload schedule.
Over the previous month though, Kjellberg has briefly traded spots with the Indian entertainment giant T-Series for the top spot on the video platform.
On Thursday, the gap between the channels keeping PewDiePie on top gave way as T-Series took the top spot reversing the gap to over 26,000.
As of 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, that gap had narrowed again, putting PewDiePie and T-Series in a dead heat.
T-Series is a different type of YouTube channel.
T-Series is India’s entertainment juggernaut. It is the largest record label in the country with a 35% share of the Indian music market. Since the company got its start in 1983 it has become mostly known for Bollywood music soundtracks and Indi-pop music, as well as posting movie trailers.
It is also a multi-channel network that manages a group of 29 channels that has amassed over 140 million subscribers, and over 90 million of those are on the main T-Series channel.
Over the course of the last six months, the internet rivalry between the UK-based PewDiePie and Mumbai-based T-Series has led both channels on a meteoric rise in subscribers.
The almost exponential growth in subscribers that both channels have seen in recent months is something that the internet had not encountered before.
Kjellberg’s channel became the first to reach the milestones of 70, 80, and 90 million subscribers on the platform. But that wasn’t enough for Kjellberg to keep the top spot.
For many fans of the platform, the rivalry has highlighted the growing corporatization of YouTube as a platform and their fight to keep independent creators as the “face” of YouTube.
Much of Kjellberg’s growth has come at a time when his fans are leading a “Subscribe to PewDiePie” campaign that quickly became a widespread meme. This campaign has led to some interesting stunts where Kjellberg’s fans hacked printers, bought TV spots and billboards, said his name 100,000 times over a 12-hour video, and even got on the national broadcast of the Superbowl.
Stephen Gostkowski misses the 46-yard FG! pic.twitter.com/jEUct0ObCr
— ESPN (@espn) February 3, 2019
But there were also a few times where the notoriety that this internet rivalry had gained was taken too far and was hijacked to spread hate. The phrase “Subscribe to PewDiePie” was graffitied onto a WWII memorial and was said by the New Zealand shooter right before he killed 50 people worshiping in their mosques.
Both of these events were quickly condemned by Kjellberg, who himself isn’t a stranger to controversy. He has come under fire before for racist language and using some anti-semitic imagery that lost him a partnership with the Disney-owned Maker Studios, but this latest turn of events in New Zealand led the Swede to take a brief break from his social media accounts, even unfollowing everyone on his Twitter profile.
Just heard news of the devastating reports from New Zealand Christchurch.
I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person.
My heart and thoughts go out to the victims, families and everyone affected by this tragedy.
— ƿ૯ωძɿ૯ƿɿ૯ (@pewdiepie) March 15, 2019
Throughout the rivalry, though, Kjellberg has been able to do some good things for children in India. In December, he launched a campaign for CRY, an NGO nonprofit in India that strives to help underprivileged children in India, where he raised $230,000 in a day.
The “fight” between the two channels has had its ups and downs and led to numerous internet records being broken, including Kjellberg bringing in the most viewers to a Fortnite live stream ever. He has also featured the eccentric billionaire Elon Musk and the popular conservative commentator Ben Shapiro on Kjellberg’s popular ‘Meme Review’ internet series.
There is always a possibility that more support could be rallied to shift the tide.
EDIT: As of 3/22 the gap has dropped to less than 100 subscribers.
This story will be updated.