Felix Kjellberg, otherwise known as PewDiePie online, has been the most subscribed YouTuber for the better part of six years until now. In the past three years, India, the second most populated country in the world, has seen a spike in Internet users as the quality of access grew. This gave Bollywood giant, T-Series, an opportunity to rise to the top on YouTube. T-Series was projected to surpass PewDiePie this past summer, but a massive campaign by fans kept him on top for the better part of a year.
T-Series’ rise in popularity was controversial in part because they were accused of using sub bots or automatically subscribing Indian users to their channel but also because critics of YouTube accuse the platform of catering to large companies at the expense of individual creators.
Kjellberg had even said early on in the subscriber battle that he would have been happy to pass the torch to another individual, but he didn’t want it given to a massive company. The campaign to keep Kjellberg on top included hacking Wi-Fi printers, wearing “Subscribe to PewDiePie” t-shirts at the Super Bowl in view of cameras and recruiting SpaceX and Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, to rate memes on PewDiePie’s show.
T-Series’ victory comes a dark turn in the T-Series vs. PewDiePie story. A terrorist in New Zealand told viewers on a livestream to “subscribe to PewDiePie” minutes before filming the massacre of Muslims at a Mosque. Kjellberg said he was “absolutely sickened” by gunman’s use of his name and did not post a video the day of the shooting “out of respect for the many families in New Zealand that have been devastated by this terrible and sad news.” He also linked to a donation page for the victims. In the past, news commentators have accused Kjellberg of encouraging white supremacists and anti-Semites online with his edgy humor. The YouTuber has denounced alt-right rhetoric and denied any affiliation with it, often criticizing the news coverage suggesting otherwise of him as being unfair.
As of writing this, the current gap of subscribers between PewDiePie and T-Series is below 15,000.
Kjellberg tweeted this morning, “This is not the end” with a GIF of angry Korean pop star.