T-Series has officially dethroned PewDiePie as the biggest channel on YouTube.
It isn’t the first time T-Series has overtaken PewDiePie, but it has maintained the lead long enough to call the contest. T-Series, for its part, changed the header image for its channel to a banner thanking fans for making it the world’s largest YouTube channel. “Making India Proud,” it adds.
The PewDiePie and T-Series feud goes back to August 2018, when Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg became aware of T-Series’ growth. He urged his fans, which he affectionately refers to as his “army of 9-year-olds,” to deter T-Series’ growth. Kjellberg’s channel has been the most subscribed channel on YouTube since 2013, but T-Series’ growth has skyrocketed due to multiple factors. For one, the channel is based in India, where 225 million monthly users log onto YouTube. It is also a leading source of Bollywood content on YouTube, which means users all over the world looking for Bollywood videos or videos from their favorite Indian artists can find it all on T-Series.
Many on YouTube feel that the T-Series-PewDiePie feud is an indictment of a greater struggle within the platform: the ongoing clash between creator-based channels against corporate entities. T-Series is a massive corporation that can churn out multiple videos a day; Kjellberg is one man.
Since last August, the YouTube community banded together in order to support PewDiePie — and YouTube creator culture as a whole. Some prominent YouTubers bought billboards, for instance, with one even going as so far to buy a billboard in Times Square. The phrase “Subscribe to PewDiePie” became a meme, and prominent members of the community would drop it into their own videos and livestreams. Those without large platforms took to the streets and the web, hanging up posters and commenting the phrase at every opportunity.
While the initial motivation behind the phrase “Subscribe to PewDiePie” was one of creator solidarity, drastic measures by impassioned fans have darkened it. Two people hacked a total of 130,000 vulnerable printers to print the phrase, and later hacked smart TVs. Another group hacked the Wall Street Journal website, which had published a critical article about PewDiePie. The Brooklyn War Memorial was defaced with “Subscribe to PewDiePie.” Kjellberg denounced the vandalism.
Perhaps most heinously, the Christchurch Mosque shooter took the phrase out of context to create controversy and declared “Subscribe to PewDiePie” in a livestream before murdering 50 people and injuring 50 more. Those who had helped popularize the phrase, such as YouTuber Ethan Klein, urged people to stop spreading it.
Throughout late February and into March, T-Series and PewDiePie oscillated in the top spot at least seven times. But with the recent controversies and a dark shadow hanging over the PewDiePie name, for the first time, it looks like PewDiePie isn’t going to make up that subscriber difference.