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T-Series beat PewDiePie to 100M YouTube subscribers -- is it the end of YouTubers?

Commentary: The short answer is no.

YouTuber PewDiePie operated the most subscribed-to channel on YouTube for five years. 

If you know only one YouTube star, it's probably PewDiePie, the king of the YouTubers -- but he isn't YouTube's No. 1 anymore. 

Earlier this week, Indian music-video and trailer channel T-Series won the race to be the first channel with 100 million subscribers on YouTube. The milestone further sealed T-Series as the winner of a months-long horse race against Felix Kjellberg, the independent video creator known as PewDiePie who ruled YouTube with its most-subscribed-to channel for five years. PewDiePie's channel currently sits at 96 million subscribers, by comparison. 

The race, and T-Series' victory, has stoked debate about whether it marks the end of an era for YouTube. Google's massive video site was defined in its first decade as a place to find the independent content creators known as YouTubers (and as a place to binge-watch cat videos). PewDiePie has morphed his video persona over the years. Starting out as an expletive-blurting "let's play" streamer of video-game play, he evolved toward music videos and a specialty in internet meme reviews. But he's always remained a prototypical YouTuber: mostly just a guy with a microphone talking directly to fans. 

T-Series, meanwhile, is a channel for a major Indian record label and film production company of the same name. As T-Series nipped at PewDiePie's heels and eventually usurped his crown, the community of YouTubers debated. Was it fair to compare one creator with an entire corporation? And did T-Series' ascendancy mark the end of an age on YouTube that gave rise to a generation of independent video celebrities?

But the site has become a galaxy of genres and audiences, none of which necessarily rules any of the others. A look at YouTube's top trending videos provides a snapshot. At the time of publication, the top 10 trending videos on YouTube included trailers for movies and a video game, a clip from a big broadcast TV show and a pro sports league's post. But half of the top 10 were videos made by YouTubers, like a haunted-house challenge video by MrBeast and a post by one of YouTube's first big stars, Jenna Marbles

Mass-media brands have advantages of deep pockets and built-in recognition to dominate attention on YouTube. But the site still has an entrenched audience looking for the kind of independent-creator content that defined YouTube for years. 

Independent "content creators will always have a chance to come out on top, because people want somebody that they can relate to" Dang Matt Smith, a YouTube creator with more than 8 million subscribers, said in a YouTube video about the subscriber race between PewDiePie and T-Series.

And make no mistake: The battle with T-Series was a boon to PewDiePie's subscriber numbers. 


A Social Blade chart of PewDiePie's daily subscriber additions over the last three years. 

Social Blade

Statistics from social media tracker Social Blade show that Kjellberg's subscription growth follows a fairly steady cadence over the years, with two exceptions. One occurred in February 2017, when his channel saw a dramatic drop and then an immediate spike in subscribers when he was the subject of a Wall Street Journal report about anti-Semitic content on YouTube. 

But that craggy section at the end of the chart? That represents months of sustained, extraordinary daily gains in subscribers to PewDiePie's channel, all coinciding with a period in which Kjellberg and others fanned the flames. The threat from T-Series and encouragement from PewDiePie motivated his fan base -- known as his bro army -- to embark on a campaign to keep subscribers streaming to his channel. That included dramatic stunts, like that YouTuber MrBeast buying every billboard in his town to advertise PewDiePie, and fans sneaking a fake page of support onto the Wall Street Journal's website

PewDiePie's loss to T-Series was one of his biggest wins. Every YouTuber should be so lucky. And with YouTube drawing in more than 2 billion monthly users, there's plenty of space left for YouTubers to endure.