PewDiePie vs T-series

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Event
Event: PewDiePie vs. T-Series
Participants: PewDiePie, T-Series
Date(s): August 2018 -
Type: Flamewar
Fandom: YouTube
URL:
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PewDiePie vs. T-Series is the name for the battle between the Swedish YouTuber PewDiePie and the Indian Bollywood company T-Series for the title of "Most Subscribed YouTube Channel," a title that PewDiePie held uncontested for six years until T-Series started gaining subscribers. It's also the origin of the "subscribe to PewDiePie" meme. The feud was widely reported by both YouTubers and mainstream media, but has drawn criticism for the methods that PewDiePie's supporters used to try and gain the lead as well as the association of the phrase "subscribe to PewDiePie" with neo-Nazi ideology.

T-Series eventually won the title of "Most Subscribed YouTube Channel."

Context of the Feud

On Dec 13 2013, PewDiePie became the most subscribed YouTube channel after a brief battle over the spot with YouTube Spotlight.[1] He took the spot from previous top channel Smosh on Aug 15 2013, but lost to YouTube Spotlight in November of the same year and did not fully gain the title of "Most Subscribed YouTube Channel" until December. PewDiePie then held that title until the Jio Effect[2] caused an upsurge of Indian users on YouTube, which then caused T-Series to start gaining an unprecedented number of subscribers a day.[3]

From the beginning of the platform, the channels that have held the title of "Most Subscribed" have represented YouTube as a platform for independent content creators.[1] With the exception of YouTube Spotlight, all of the channels prior to PewDiePie that held the title were independent content creators or, in the case of lonelygir15, a webseries uniquely suited to the platform of YouTube. This fact, coupled with the growing dissatisfaction of users that independent content creators have been pushed out of the top most subscribed channel by global musicians such as Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift who also dominate the list of most viewed YouTube Videos, led to many people feeling as if Adpocalypse had culminated in this final nail in the coffin of independent creators: a faceless, corporate YouTube channel that uploads content multiple times a day being the new most subscribed channel on YouTube.

The upset also came on the heels of the YouTube Rewind 2018 Controversy, wherein the userbase of YouTube felt that the yearly recap of "YouTube," as it were, pushed corporate and "ad-friendly" version of what was supposed to be a celebration of creators and the content that made YouTube great.[4] In this climate, it was easy to posit PewDiePie vs. T-Series as a battle between what the community felt YouTube stood for and what they felt YouTube was trying to turn the platform into. Even the narrative put forth by an early video on the topic was that the battle was about an independent content creator versus "an entire Indian news corporation spamming uploads."[3] Thus, even though PewDiePie wasn't necessarily a content creator that everyone wanted to support, given his previous anti-Semitism that resulted in the cancellation of his reality show and YouTube revoking his spot in their premium advertising program[5], independent content creators rallied around PewDiePie to keep him the most subscribed channel on YouTube.

An early article about the feud by Washington Post gave the following context for why T-Series rose to the top as a contender for PewDiePie:

T-Series is an Indian YouTube channel that taps into the popularity of Bollywood and focuses on music videos. Unlike PewDiePie, the channel posts multiple videos a day (about four to six), and is run by an entertainment company. And it’s growing at a staggering pace as India’s Internet user base expands. Since the beginning of the year, T-Series has gained more than 35 million subscribers.

There are a lot of things that T-Series has going for it, and it’s hard to say which one is the driving force behind its takeover of the YouTube subscriber chart. Motherboard noted recently that T-Series has done a couple of super smart things: It has catered to regional audiences like those in Bengali and Tamil, and has focused on music. Bollywood music, Motherboard writes, isn’t as accessible in digital formats as you’d think. So a free YouTube channel with a huge catalogue of songs immediately becomes appealing.[6]

History

2018

In August of 2018, Pyrocynical made a video titled "THIS CHANNEL WILL OVERTAKE PEWDIEPIE (ASOT)"[3] stating that by November of 2018, T-Series would overtake PewDiePie as the most subscribed channel. PewDiePie, in typical fashion, made a video titled "THIS CHANNEL WILL OVERTAKE PEWDIEPIE! LWIAY #0046"[7] which was a humorous video on the situation imploring his viewers to "smash subscribe."

Early response from T-Series was minimal, with the president of T-Series saying "PewDiePie is indeed a good channel and there is no competition between T-Series & PewDiePie as both have different sets of audiences. I wish all the very best to PewDiePie."[8] However at least one prominent Bollywood singer/lyricist spoke out against PewDiePie when the T-Series song Tera Hua began to get a number of dislikes.[9]

October

October saw the beginnings of the more extreme methods people would use in supporting PewDiePie. Well-known YouTuber MrBeast posted a video titled "I Bought Every Billboard In My City For This" wherein he lists all of the things that he's done in order to keep PewDiePie on top and shows off the billboards that he bought in his city in support of PewDiePie.[10] PewDiePie also posted a diss track about T-Series in collaboration with Party in Backyard.[11]

November

In late November, reports of printers being hacked to print pages informing people of the on-going battle between PewDiePie and T-Series started surfacing.[12] The perpetrator of the attack stated that it was partially in support of PewDiePie, but also to raise awareness of a security flaw in the particular printers they were targeting.[13] MrBeast also spent almost twelve hours streaming in support of PewDiePie[14] and there were reports of "bitch lasagna"[11] being played in clubs.[15][16] YouTuber Justin Roberts also bought an extremely expensive billboard in Times Square in support of PewDiePie.[17]

December

By early December, it looked like T-Series might actually overtake PewDiePie until Markiplier livestreamed for forty-eight minutes in support of PewDiePie[18] and took PewDiePie's gap from 63,000 to a much more robust 130,000 subscribers.[19] In response to growing concern about anti-Indian sentiment among his fans due to the feud against T-Series, PewDiePie announced that he was raising money for the charity Child Rights and You.[20] He made a statement about the comments from his fans in the video where he announced that he was raising the money:

Everyone is just so invested into this, but there's a part of this that I really, really don't like, but - and it's a shame because it [isn't] the vast majority of people. But it sometimes in these comments - and you guys have told me this as well - you see comment such as like "f**k Indians" [...] and I obviously made Indian jokes and stuff like that, but I do that of all countries and this is not what I'm about and I know my fanbase isn't about this either. [...] No more "f**k India." Let's instead help India.[21]

This marked the first time that PewDiePie seemed mildly uncomfortable with the more extreme extent of people's dedication to "the meme" as it were. The printer hackers also struck again in December, targeting more than 100,000 printers.[13] The Wall Street Journal was also hacked, their home page displaying a fake apology for "misrepresenting" PewDiePie in the earlier articles about his anti-Semitic remarks.[22] Additionally, a piece of ransomware that locks infected users files until they subscribe to PewDiePie was found and brought to attention by Malware Hunter Team.[23] YouTuber Quackity also posted a video wherein he showed himself trying to get telephone scammers to subscribe to PewDiePie.[24]

A crackdown by YouTube on inactive or spam accounts on the platform led to both channels losing significant amounts of followers, but the move proved to be beneficial for PewDiePie as T-Series lost far more followers than him and put him firmly in the lead at around 77 million with T-Series trailing behind at 75 million.[25]

2019

January

The hackers who exposed the printer vulnerability earlier set their sights on Google Chromecasts, hacking into them and forcing them to play PewDiePie videos.[26]

February

As the gap between him and T-Series closed, PewDiePie chose to stream himself playing Fortnite because of its extreme popularity.[27] At the beginning of the stream, the gap between the two channels was less than 50,000 subscribers but by the end of the almost hour and a half long stream PewDiePie's lead was over 83,000 subscribers. This stream marked PewDiePie as the most popular person to stream Fortnite. Jacksepticeye also streamed in support of PewDiePie for over an hour in February, threatening to delete his channel if T-Series overtook PewDiePie.[28] This livestream helped PewDiePie maintain his lead over T-Series. MrBeast again supported PewDiePie in an outlandish manner in February. During the 2018 Super Bowl, MrBeast bought half a row of seats behind the field goal and wore shirts saying "SUB 2 PEWDIEPIE."[29]

Several Pornhub creators including Indigo White also expressed their support for PewDiePie in both tasteful and decidedly NSFW videos.[30] PewDiePie turned to his old tricks as the gap between the two channels closed yet again and streamed Minecraft.[31] He also called in Elon Musk to host his series "Meme Review" with Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland.[32] However, PewDiePie got an unexpected boost when the hostile political climate between India and Pakistan resulted in T-Series removing all content from Pakistani artists from their channel.[33] This caused many people to call for Pakistani people to unsubscribe to T-Series and subscribe to PewDiePie.[34][35]

Another ransomware, named PewCrypt, that locks files was found in late February. This one had a slightly more sinister twist: files would not be unlocked until PewDiePie reached 100 million subs, but if T-Series reached 100 million subs first, the ransomware would delete all files.[36] A hacker also took over Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's twitter and tweeted (among unequivacbly heinous content such as a fake bomb threat) support for PewDiePie and encouraged followers to subscribe.[37]

March

It seemed like T-Series was starting to take the idea of PewDiePie vs T-Series seriously by March. On March 6 2019, the current president of T-Series took to Twitter in a video message saying "This is a historic moment for all [of India] so let's come together and subscribe to T-Series YouTube channel and make India proud. Hashtag BharatWinsYouTube."[38] Several other singers and Bollywood stars took up the banner as well, using #BharatWinsYouTube in order to show support for T-Series.[39] A comment PewDiePie made about Pakistan's support for him after the president of T-Series' message came under fire for seeming insensitivity to the long history of the conflict between India and Pakistan.[40]

Plzz pewds i know u don't mean any harm but plzz keep ur mouth shut in situations you don't really know! U dont know the india- pakistan history. You will only make a whole nation stand against you if you keep making fun of these sensitive situations.[41]

PewDiePie's side continued to use extreme and somewhat dubious tactics in their fight against T-Series, with people defacing a World War 2 memorial in Brooklyn with the now familiar "subscribe to PewDiePie" mantra.[42] The title of top spot changed hands several times over the course of March,[43] with multiple routine audits meaning that the channels were neck and neck for much of the month and frequently the top spot changed hands faster than journalists could keep up with the events.

On March 14, in a now-deleted video, YouTube comedy duo H3H3 went over a email he received from a T-Series subscriber that contained threats against Ethan Klein, his wife, and their unborn child.[44] On the same day, the perpetrator of the New Zealand Christchurch Shooting told viewers of his livestream to "subscribe to PewDiePie" before entering the Christchurch mosque and killing over 30 people. Because of the attack, h3h3 deleted their video.[45] Other content creators, including Jimmy Wong[46] and Onision, who has a history of using tragedies for views[47], spoke out against the use of "subscribe to PewDiePie" as a meme.

PewDiePie's fanbase, however, began to harass users who spoke out and expressed criticism of both the "subscribe to PewDiePie" meme and PewDiePie himself.

currently receiving torrents of images of dead victims of the shooting in my DMs followed by the words “subscribe to pewdiepie”

that’s where we’re at

in these photos, the dead victims’ limbs are crudely photoshopped so that they are “clicking” a youtube subscribe button.

this is a magnitude of monstrosity i didn’t know was possible.

I just don’t know man.[48]

By March 19, PewDiePie was rapidly losing to T-Series, who actually managed to briefly claim the top spot several times, and had returned to his old, meme-y tactics. He unfollowed everyone on twitter besides the official BTS account on twitter, changing his bio to "#1 BTS Stan Account" and only replying to people with gifs of BTS members.[49] Because BTS has one of the strongest online fandoms, especially where Twitter and YouTube are concerned, PewDiePie clearly hoped that the boost from the BTS fandom will help him keep the top spot but the tactic backfired slightly when BTS fans noticed that PewDiePie copied another user's tweet about Jimin.[50]

On March 26, the tide finally seemed to turn in the favor of T-Series. The two channels battled for several hours before T-Series finally fully took the lead on March 27 and kept the lead.[51] On the fourth day of T-Series keeping the lead, PewDiePie posted another diss track titled "Congratulations" that congratulated T-Series for winning while also dunking on them.[52]

April

The release of "Congratulations" quickly rallied PewDiePie's fanbase and put him back in the top spot by April 1[53] which helped him keep the lead for almost two weeks before PewDiePie finally lost the lead on April 14.[54] T-Series' defamation claim against PewDiePie, first mentioned in the diss track "Congratulations," was heard in April. Justice Jayant Nath issued an interim order on April 8 saying "In my opinion, it would be in the interest of justice that these videos are taken off by YouTube."[55] This lead to both "bitch lasagna" and "Congratulations" being blocked in India according to fans in the region.[56]

In late April, the perpetrator of the Poway Synagogue Shooting also invoked the "subscribe to PewDiePie" meme[57] which led to PewDiePie finally addressing the matter in a video on April 28.[58] PewDiePie officially put the meme to rest the next day after a plane with a banner saying "subscribe to PewDiePie" flew around New York City.[59]

Criticism

Christchurch Shooting

After the Christchurch shooting, many people spoke out saying that while PewDiePie was not responsible for the shooting, he was responsible for the fanbase he'd chosen to cultivate.

The Christchurch shooter posted a manifesto on 8chan and shouted "subscribe to PewDiePie" before opening fire on the mosque, livestreaming the whole thing. The internet is 1000% a vehicle for right-wing radicalisation.

Fuck you, PewDiePie fans. Your boy has had too many racism/Nazism scandals to write off as coincidence or "edgy" comedy. His "jokes" aren't funny and he's fucking trash.@mistertodd
Pewdiepie has platformed alt-right people on his podcast and opened his audience to them. He gave them a voice, and they use it to radicalize thousands of people to islamophobic rhetoric that the new zealand shooter holds.@DelilahFlowers2
The white supremacists who carried out the killings at Christchurch in New Zealand yelled "subscribe to PewDiePie" before the shootings. I have tweeted for years warning people about PewDiePie's dangerous rhetoric/connections@tariqnasheed
“Subscribe to PewDiePie” is one of the most prominent examples of how quickly an initially innocent meme can snowball into something defined by the hateful actions of others. The joke may have started off as commentary on a specific YouTube issue within the community — a David vs Goliath fight between one of the platform’s most popular independent creators and a corporation — but that’s not what it stands for anymore. Kjelleberg’s decision to use YouTube, his most important platform, to deliver a message about ending something he could no longer control, was inevitable.PewDiePie calls for an end to the ‘Subscribe to PewDiePie’ meme after New Zealand shooting

PewDiePie himself responded to the controversy in a tweet, expressing genuine sadness that this happened:

Just heard news of the devastating reports from New Zealand Christchurch.

I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person.

My heart and thoughts go out to the victims, families and everyone affected by this tragedy.@pewdiepie

Fanworks about PewDiePie vs. T-Series

References

  1. ^ a b List of most-subscribed YouTube channels. Accessed March 15 2019.
  2. ^ The Jio Effect: How the Newcomer Made an Impact in India. Accessed March 16 2019.
  3. ^ a b c THIS CHANNEL WILL OVERTAKE PEWDIEPIE (ASOT), posted August 02 2018.
  4. ^ YouTube Rewind 2018 is officially the most disliked video on YouTube. Accessed March 16 2019.
  5. ^ YouTube Cancels PewDiePie Show, Pulls Channel From Ad Program After His ‘Death to All Jews’ Stunt. Accessed March 16 2019.
  6. ^ PewDiePie is YouTube’s most-subscribed channel. He’s about to be dethroned. Posted 26 Oct 2018. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  7. ^ THIS CHANNEL WILL OVERTAKE PEWDIEPIE! LWIAY #0046, posted August 29 2018.
  8. ^ T-Series responds to PewDiePie's fans trolling as it inches towards becoming 'biggest YouTube channel'. Accessed March 24 2019.
  9. ^ @AmaalMallik on Twitter: "Yes it’s a scam, just give all your love to #TeraHua by @tanishkbagchi @itsaadee @manojmuntashir @TSeries @azeem2112" Posted Aug 29 2018.
  10. ^ I Bought Every Billboard In My City For This. Posted Oct 26 2018.
  11. ^ a b bitch lasagna. Posted Oct 5 2018.
  12. ^ Someone hacked printers worldwide, urging people to subscribe to PewDiePie. Accessed March 16 2019.
  13. ^ a b PewDiePie printer hackers strike again. Accessed March 16 2019.
  14. ^ Saying Pewdiepie 100,000 Times. Streamed Nov 25 2018.
  15. ^ @grandayy on Twitter: "Now they're playing Bitch Lasagna at Maltese clubs too @pewdiepie" Posted Nov 29 2018.
  16. ^ @LWIAY_bot on Twitter: "I got the DJ to play Bitch Lasagna in the Club please can we get this into LWIAY so pewds can see it?! I’m doing my part" Posted Nov 23 2018.
  17. ^ Buying PewDiePie a $1M Billboard in Times Square!. Posting Nov 20 2018.
  18. ^ I Literally Won’t Shut Up Until You Subscribe To PewDiePie, streamed Dec 02 2018.
  19. ^ Markiplier Launches Last-Minute Pro-PewDiePie Stream, Supercharging His Subscriber Lead Over T-Series. Accessed March 15 2019.
  20. ^ PewDiePie urges his fans to donate to charity as T-Series battle rages on. Posted 3 Dec 2018. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  21. ^ This is getting out of control... Posted 3 Dec 2018. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  22. ^ PewDiePie fans deface Wall Street Journal and hack thousands more printers in T-Series battle. Posted 17 Dec 2018. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  23. ^ @malwrhunterteam on Twitter. Posted Dec 17 2018.
  24. ^ MAKING SCAMMERS SUBSCRIBE TO PEWDIEPIE. Posted Dec 19 2018.
  25. ^ PewDiePie vs T-Series: Crackdown on fake accounts helps YouTuber maintain lead. Posted 16 Dec 2018. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  26. ^ Hackers Expose 72,000 Smart TVs In Honor Of PewDiePie -- And Terrible Security. Posted 3 Jan 2019. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  27. ^ Playing Fortnite to stop Tseries (Im desperate), streamed Feb 3 2019.
  28. ^ SUBSCRIBE TO PEWDIEPIE, streamed Feb 18 2019.
  29. ^ I Advertised Pewdiepie At The Super Bowl. Posted Feb 4 2019.
  30. ^ PewDiePie gets a boost from Pornhub in YouTube battle against T-Series. Accessed March 14 2019.
  31. ^ Playing Minecraft Christian Servers to STOP TSERIES, streamed Feb 17 2019.
  32. ^ Elon Musk hosts PewDiePie's meme review in ongoing T-Series battle. Accessed March 16 2019.
  33. ^ An Entire Country To Unsubscribe to T-Series, PewDiePie Could Still Win. Accessed March 16 2019.
  34. ^ @awa7ayb on Twitter: "To the whole of #Pakistan, @TSeries has already kicked out songs sung by Pakistani singers e.g. @itsaadee and many others. Now's the time to UNSUBSCRIBE FROM TSERIES & SUBSCRIBE TO @pewdiepie -- the guy who's been giving their YT channel hell since Oct 2018! #pewdiepievstseries" Posted Feb 19 2019.
  35. ^ @Mubaxher1 on Twitter: "Its time to subscribe @pewdiepie and unsubscribe to @TSeries... Keep support @pewdiepie and boycott all #indian_products , #Indian_youtubers and #Indians... #GayHind Pew_d will meet 100 million subscribers before T-Series. We are with Pakistan Pew_d@DennisCricket_ @duckybhai" Posted 19 February 2019.
  36. ^ PEWDIEPIE RANSOMWARE. Posted Feb 22 2019.
  37. ^ A Hacker Took Over the Tampa Mayor's Twitter and Sent a Fake Ballistic Missile Warning and Bomb Threat. Posted 21 Feb 2019. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  38. ^ @TSeries on Twitter: "Just a few steps away from becoming the world’s biggest YouTube channel. Lets create history by making India win." Posted March 6 2019.
  39. ^ T-Series Takes on PewDiePie on YouTube: It's Bollywood vs the World Now. Accessed March 24 209.
  40. ^ PewDiePie under fire for India-Pakistan comments amid YouTube supremacy race with T-Series. Posted 13 Mar 2019. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  41. ^ Tweet from @Rajeshwar1311 in response to a now-deleted tweet from PewDiePie. Posted 12 Mar 2019. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  42. ^ Brooklyn WWII Memorial Defaced With Call to 'Subscribe' to Controversial Youtuber PewDiePie. Accessed March 24 2019.
  43. ^ Pewdiepie vs T-Series: Subscriber data from 22 March 2019 until 1 April 2019. Posted 1 April 2019. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  44. ^ H3H3 urges fans to support PewDiePie after receiving death threats from T-Series sub. Accessed March 16 2019.
  45. ^ YouTube creators are trying to move on from 'subscribe to PewDiePie'. Accessed March 24 2019.
  46. ^ @JimmyWong on Twitter: "Hey @pewdiepie - you need to talk to your community. Don’t skirt around this shit brotha. You go and talk to whoever you need to in order to figure this out, but you gotta say something. Do something. Help this world heal." Posted March 15 2019.
  47. ^ Onision Is A Sensitive Soul. Posted March 17 2019.
  48. ^ Thread from @meakoopa. Posted 20 Mar 2019. Accessed 29 Jan 2020.
  49. ^ PewDiePie vs T-Series: Race for top YouTube channel gets intense. Accessed March 24 2019.
  50. ^ PewDiePie proves he’s an ARMY by unfollowing everyone on Twitter except BTS. Accessed March 24 2019.
  51. ^ Has PewDiePie finally been beaten by T-Series? Posted 27 Mar 2019. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  52. ^ Congratulations. Posted 31 MKar 2019. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  53. ^ Tweet from @subgap. Posted 1 Apr 2019. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  54. ^ Pewdiepie vs T-Series: Subscriber data from 1 April 2019 until 29 April 2019. Posted 28 April 2019. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  55. ^ Battle between PewDiePie and T-series now reaches Delhi High Court. Posted 11 April 2019.
  56. ^ Bitch Lasagna and Congratulations have been blocked in India and comments are disabled 😡😡 T-Series filing take down for defamation and derogatory comments. Posted 11 April 2019. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  57. ^ The Meme Terrorists. Posted 30 April 2019. Accessed 10 December 2019.
  58. ^ Ending the Subscribe to Pewdiepie Meme. Posted 28 April 2019. Accessed 20 Dec 2019.
  59. ^ There’s a plane flying around New York with a ‘subscribe to PewDiePie’ banner. Posted 29 April 2019. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.