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PewDiePie admits defeat to T-Series

A months long battle ends with a whimper

PewDiePie Signs Copies Of His New Book ‘This Book Loves You’ Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images
Petrana Radulovic is an entertainment reporter specializing in animation, fandom culture, theme parks, Disney, and young adult fantasy franchises.

Update (April 1): We’ve updated this article to reflect the impermanence of YouTube subscriber count and make the fact that PewDiePie conceded defeat clearer.

After a months-long battle that captured the tension between creators and corporate culture on YouTube, PewDiePie officially admitted defeat to T-Series with a diss track. The Swedish YouTuber says he will no longer actively battle the Bollywood production company for the top spot on YouTube.

PewDiePie aired a concession diss track Sunday admitting defeat as subscriber numbers for both channels show him trailing the Bollywood production company, 92,076,809 to 91,970,093 at the time.

It isn’t the first time T-Series has overtaken PewDiePie, but it is the first time PewDiePie conceded. 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.

PewDiePie’s diss track did not exactly clear the record about these more extreme uses of the phrase “Subscribed to PewDiePie!” If anything, some take issue with certain lyrics about genocide, which they claim are in bad taste after the horrific acts of violence in New Zealand.

At the same time, however, he claims that T-Series filed a cease-and-desist and alleges that the chairman of T-Series is involved in a tax scandal. We’ve reached out to T-Series regarding these claims and will update as necessary. Kjellberg also used the diss track to thank his loyal fanbase and opened up about his past issues, including his creator burnout and his dependence on alcohol.

Though PewDiePie has admitted defeat and will no longer actively campaign against T-Series, at the time of writing, PewDiePie is actually ahead by a couple of thousand. It’s very likely that the actual subscriber numbers will continue to fluctuate. T-Series and PewDiePie might oscillate for the top spot till the end of time, a poetic dance that may never have a satisfactory conclusion.

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