PewDiePie and his supporters are fighting hard to keep him the No. 1 most-subscribed YouTuber on the platform.
In recent weeks, PewDiePie’s five-year reign as the YouTube creator with the most subscribers on the platform has been threatened by T-Series, an Indian entertainment conglomerate whose YouTube channel features music videos. On Sunday, T-Series’ subscriber count came within less than 50,000 of surpassing PewDiePie, the online handle of game-focused vlogger Felix Kjellberg.
Then PewDiePie got a new boost from Markiplier, another popular game-focused YouTuber (real name: Mark Fischbach). In a live-streamed, telethon-style video Sunday, Markiplier urged his own 22 million subscribers to subscribe to PewDiePie.
Markiplier issued a nearly messianic (but clearly tongue-in-cheek) call to action. “Do your part! This isn’t just about you. This isn’t just about me. This is about what’s right,” Markiplier breathlessly intoned said in the video, titled, “I Literally Won’t Shut Up Until You Subscribe To PewDiePie.”
As of Monday morning, PewDiePie’s YouTube channel had about 73.6 million subscribers — up 4.4 million in just the last 30 days. T-Series currently has 73.3 million subs.
The underlying message from PewDiePie and his followers: Don’t let a corporate entity like T-Series beat an independent creator who ostensibly represents YouTube’s founding ethos. “This is about respect and I respect the fact that PewDiePie needs to have more subscribers than T-Series,” Markiplier said in the video.
Efforts by Kjellberg’s supporters to rally users to subscribe to his channel have included buying ads and posting fliers, including in India, as illustrated in PewDiePie’s shout-outs in this Nov. 6 video. Backers have included MrBeast — the YouTube handle of Jimmy Donaldson, who has made a name by making large donations to other creators — and YouTuber Justin Roberts of Jake Paul’s Team 10, who claimed he bought a $1 million Times Square billboard promoting PewDiePie.
The pro-PewDiePie campaign took an especially bizarre turn last week: A hacker claims to have hijacked 50,000 internet-connected printers to spit out messages urging people to subscribe to PewDiePie and unsubscribe from T-Series. In the printout, the guerrilla hacker complained that T-Series “simply uploads video of Bollywood trailers and songs.”
Subscriber counts obviously reflect YouTube channels’ popularity and earning power. But it’s not clear whether PewDiePie’s millions of new followers will deliver a commensurate long-term lift for him, or if they’re just subscribing as part of the thrill of the chase.
PewDiePie has treated the rivalry with T-Series as something of a game — and, naturally, it has become fodder for more content (and views) on his YouTube channel.
In October, PewDiePie posted a song dissing T-Series called “Bitch Lasagna” whose lyrics include “Sit the f— down T-Series / I’m here to spill the real tea / You tryna dethrone me from spot on number one / But you India, you lose, so best think you haven’t won.” The video has more than 50 million views, and the track has been covered by several fans.
Kjellberg, who is 29, has courted controversy with weird pranks. In 2017, he lost business deals with Disney’s Maker Studios and YouTube after staging an anti-Semitic “joke,” which Kjellberg apologized for, saying “I admit that the joke itself went too far.”