You subscribe they win: The inner-workings of the PewDiePie vs T-Series war

‘Breaking the Internet’ is the latest fad in pop culture and YouTube is one of the most experimental playgrounds for this hobby for anyone with Internet access.

Like all playgrounds, even YouTube has its popular kids on the block, and Sweden-based Felix Kjellberg, 29, also known as PewDiePie, tops that list. He started as a YouTuber with sharing videos of him playing games such as Minecraft, Call of Duty and Amnesia in 2010. As of 2019, most of his content falls under comedy. He became the most subscribed YouTube channel on August 15, 2013.

However, that might soon change as India’s largest music label T-Series edges closer to surpass PewDiePie. Recently, T-Series MD Bhushan Kumar shared a video with #BharatWinsYouTube on Twitter in an attempt to jump past PewDiePie. This race for the top spot on YouTube is dubbed the ‘Great Subscriber War’ on the Internet.

Let’s get down to the numbers: PewDiePie uploads a video every day whereas T-Series does at least three videos per day. At the moment, he has over 20.5 billion views vs T-Series, the most viewed channel with over 64 billion views. According to Social Blade, the daily average views for PDP is about 11 million, while T-Series gets around 96 million (this is of course, at the time of writing this). Funnily enough, as per Google Trends, T-Series had a higher web search rating than PewDiePie in India from June to November 2018. Since then, PewDiePie has been searched significantly more times than T-Series.

A posted by smckee712 on r/PewdiepieSubmissions

A posted by smckee712 on r/PewdiepieSubmissions

To top off the drama, on February 22, T-Series became the most subscribed YouTube channel for eight minutes — which definitely almost broke the Internet.

When did it all begin?

Any Indian who has purchased music cassettes knows T-Series; such is their hold in the music industry. While these nifty gadgets are now considered ‘vintage’, the music never stopped for T-Series; it improvised by adopting a robust online first strategy. T-Series has 29 YouTube channels which have over 140 million subscribers — from Kashmiri to Bhojpuri music, they have it all. This year, it will produce 21 Bollywood films, thus adding to its monopoly.

In 2016, India saw an unprecedented growth of Internet users due to the Jio effect, thus creating the perfect setting for T-Series to take India’s love for music and films to YouTube like never before. As of today, its average daily subscribers is over 140,000.

Reddit user mrbananoid2, edited a clip from Titanic as PewDiePie’s ship continues to “sink”

Reddit user mrbananoid2, edited a clip from Titanic as PewDiePie’s ship continues to “sink”
| Photo Credit: HANDOUT

Last year around July, several YouTubers made videos on how T-Series was set to become the most subscribed channel by November 2018. In August, PewDiePie uploaded a video titled ‘This channel will overtake PewDiePie!’ He performed a two-minute rant in his usual style which ended with a simple call to action — smash subscribe!

Reddit user Nobama-Boss made a PewDiePie vs T-Series checkers board

Reddit user Nobama-Boss made a PewDiePie vs T-Series checkers board

What happened over the next few weeks was bizarre. The response from the community even took him by surprise. People across the world started doing things online and offline to gain subscribers for PewDiePie.

They did their part, did you?

Elon Musk and Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief for The Daily Wire hosted Meme Review to increase the subscriber gap between PewDiePie and T-Series.

Saiman Says, An Indian YouTuber purchased several billboards in Mumbai so that PewDiePie can gain more subscribers.

An 18-year-old YouTuber from Mexico,Quackity, made a video of him requesting Indian Tech Support Scammers to PewDiePie subscribers.

TheHackerGiraffe and j3ws3r hacked about 130,000 printers across the world; the printers printed out “Subscribe to PewDiePie!” The group claimed their objective was to inform about the security flaw in printers in a fun way.

Davide Biale also known as Davie504 played the diss track on bass guitar for 10 hours on YouTube.

Twenty-year-old, Jimmy Donaldson, known online as MrBeast, led the most comprehensive ad-campaigns for PewDiePie. He also pulled a stunt in the Super Bowl to gain for subscribers for PewDiePie.

Patric Adire made an NFC enabled ring programmed it to subscribe you to PewDiePie and unsubscribe you from T-Series.

Justin Roberts, a 16-year-old YouTuber, purchased a billboard in New York Times Square saying “Keep PewDiePie number one on YouTube.”

Other YouTubers like Jacksepticeye, Markiplier, Logan Paul gave shout outs to increase the subscriber gap between PewDiePie and T-Series.

PewDiePie (affectionally known also as ‘Pewds’) decided to have fun by continuing with the ‘We have to beat T-Series’ narrative for as long as possible. He even made a T-Series diss track four months ago, which has over 144 million views. As a result, PewDiePie is still a few thousand subscribers ahead of T-Series. No matter how this ‘war’ ends, both channels are gaining millions of followers on YouTube. T-Series’ brand is now recognised worldwide.

Peering at PewDiePie

It’s understandable to feel a little intimidated at joining the PewDiePie party so late.

The fun begins from Pewdiepie’s YouTube clickbaity thumbnails

The fun begins from Pewdiepie’s YouTube clickbaity thumbnails

In 2013, he crossed five million subscribers. He said, “I don’t know what it is that I do; I really don’t get it, but I feel like I live the dream. It’s all thanks to you.” Even today, Felix feels the same way about his success. No wonder most of his content in 2019 focuses on enabling higher engagement with his audience. The fun starts with PewDiePie’s ironically clickbaity video titles and thumbnails — don’t judge the content based on the video resolution or deliberately cringy editing. You will get updated on the latest memes. If you are planning to watch PewDiePie for the first time, watch his videos on India.

As Felix’s channel grew, it became harder to respond to his fans. He started a Friday vlog in which audiences got to know him personally which laid the foundation for kind of content he’d produce later.

PewDiePie’s shows

  • Meme Review He rates popular memes on the internet
  • Last Week I Asked You (LWIAY) Each week he reacts to memes submitted on r/PewdiepieSubmissions by his community. Content varies from PewDiePew themed memes, artwork, and sometimes a video game.
  • You Laugh You Lose Watches memes and “tries” not to laugh.
  • Pew News Shares opinion on trending issues on the internet, typically about the issues with various online platforms, trends and other YouTubers.
  • TikTok video Reacts to TikTok videos.
  • Reddit Review Reacts to memes from various Reddit threads.
  • Dr Phil video He reacts to Dr Phil, an American tabloid talk show about where Phil McGraw advices individuals using his experience as a clinical and forensic psychologist.
  • Book Review Talks about the recent books he has read.
  • Vlogs Some of the common ones are travel vlog, Q and A session with Marzia Bisognin (his fiancé), reviewing “the finest” movies

More than a gamer

Just like all art forms, making videos also tests freedom of speech. Felix has a built a reputation of speaking his mind and taking risks with his jokes naturally becoming a part of several media controversies. So, he shares his point of view, taking responsibility for his artistic liberties. He often chats current issues on the Internet, such as online mental health platforms and YouTube’s algorithm and policies.

He’s also tried his hand at philanthropy. Most recently, he led a crowd-funding campaign for Child Rights and You (CRY), an India-based NGO. Thanks to his followers, the campaign ended up raising over $200,000 in a day. Vatsala Mamgain, Director, Resource Mobilisation at CRY, says, “Taking action for those who cannot act for themselves comes from a wonderful place. We were genuinely moved by the generosity and empathy shown by people across the world to help children in India.” CRY has extended an invitation to Felix to visit India to understand their work from the ground.

As you’re reading this, the war will still be powering on, the numbers closing in on each other in some kind of rabid battle. Maybe by now, either T-Series has taken over or maybe PewDiePie has another trick up his sleeve to stay ahead.


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