PewDiePie cracks 86 million YouTube subscribers in ongoing T-Series battle

PewDiePie took to Fortnite and his friends took to the Super Bowl to stave off a recent T-Series challenge for the YouTube subscriber record.

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A still from PewDiePie's T-Series diss track "Bitch Lasagna."


Off the back of numerous viral campaigns -- including one at Super Bowl 53 -- the world's most popular YouTube channel has surpassed 86 million subscribers as it clings to the title of the video streaming giant's most subscribed of all time. 

PewDiePie, aka Swedish personality Felix Kjellberg, has held the record for the most  YouTube  subscribers for the last five years, taking that record on Dec. 23, 2013. At that time, PewDiePie had accumulated around 14 million subscribers. Now, at a touch over 86 million, Kjellberg is barely holding on to the record. The challenger to the streaming throne? Not a single person, but a corporate entity.


T-Series is India's biggest music label, operating a YouTube channel that features film trailers, songs and clips. The channel is slowly edging toward 86 million subscribers itself, and has been growing by around 150,000 per day. As of Feb. 17, less than 35,000 subscribers separate the channel from PewDiePie's record. But the Swede is not done yet. And he's survived such rallies by T-Series before, when subscriber counts got even closer than this, dwindling as low as 13,000.

The looming threat of T-Series taking PewDiePie's record has consistently spurred fans and other influencers into action. One hacker has even forced printers to print pro-PewDiePie messages and smart TVs to urge people to subscribe to his channel. Even tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has joined the cause, suggesting he might guest host one of PewDiePie's recurring segments, "Meme Review," while holding a giant gun.

On Feb. 3, the difference between PewDiePie and T-Series got as low as 40,000.  Off the back of a YouTube livestream where PewDiePie turned to playing Fortnite , the uber-successful gaming juggernaut, that number has ballooned out to over 100,000. During the Super Bowl broadcast, eagle eyed viewers familiar with the T-Series battle spotted a familiar slogan after a missed Patriots field goal:

"Subscribe to PewDiePie"

The message was printed on shirts at the Rams end, right behind the posts:

The effort is the work of Jimmy Donaldson, better known as MrBeast, a YouTube content creator who has been campaigning to keep PewDiePie on top ever since the battle started to heat up.

On Feb. 14, there was trouble again, with the subscriber count difference dropping to just over 10,000. Fortunately, PewDiePie was helped by YouTube mainstay JackSepticEye, who helped rally the fans again. Since then, the numbers have ebbed and flowed dramatically.

Although it seems likely PewDiePie will eventually drop to second place as the T-Series machine grinds on, crazier things have happened on the internet. Earlier this year, a photo of an egg became the most liked post on Instagram. Humans are unpredictable. The Super Bowl campaign and help from YouTube friends has already helped PewDiePie widen the gap with T-Series even more.

There's absolute daylight between the two YouTube titans and third place, however, with the channel 5-Minute Crafts sitting on the bronze medal with 47.9 million subscribers.

PewDiePie's time as King of YouTube has been rife with controversy. In January 2017, he came under fire for posting an anti-Semitic video, laughing at two men he'd hired to hold up a sign saying "death to all Jews." At the time he was affiliated with Disney's Maker Studios. But after a Wall Street Journal reportDisney dropped Kjellberg. In July 2018, after Demi Lovato was hospitalized following a suspected drug overdose, Kjellberg posted a meme making light of her addiction, sparking outcry from her fans. The post was later deleted.

If you're so inclined to follow along the count live, you can do so here.

First published, Jan. 28 at 5:17 p.m. PT.
Correction, Jan. 29 at 5:45 a.m. PT: Fixes the daily subscriber increase figure for T-Series.
Update, Jan. 29 at 6:20 a.m. PT: Changes the difference between subscribers of the PewDiePie and T-Series channels.
Update, Feb. 4 at 1:25 p.m. PT: Updates subscriber number differences and info around Super Bowl.
Update, Feb. 4 at 5:33 p.m. PT: Adds Super Bowl campaign.
Update, Feb. 17 at 3:30 p.m. PT: Adds new milestone reached, updates numbers.

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