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Did his longtime rivals finally pass him for good?
The race to be the world’s No. 1 YouTuber has taken a turn away from PewDiePie—and it’s seeming more likely that his reign at the top is coming to an end.
As reported by YouTube social analytics site Social Blade, T-Series took the subscriber lead away from PewDiePie at about 12:31am ET on Thursday morning. The two channels have been rotating as the No. 1 channel on YouTube for the past several days, but on Thursday morning, T-Series—the official channel of an Indian music label—had about a 30,000 subscriber lead on PewDiePie at more than 90.5 million.
Initially, it was assumed that T-Series would take the lead for good last October. But that’s when YouTubers across the world put their support behind PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg. Popular YouTuber MrBeast helped begin the “Subscribe to PewDiePie” movement by buying billboard advertisements, making 12-hour videos about him, and landing premium Super Bowl seats to get his message across.
Others followed his lead. Fans in Bangladesh and India put their support behind PewDiePie, and YouTube star Justin Roberts reportedly spent $1 million on a Times Square billboard. Hackers also infiltrated printers, Chromecasts, and Nest cameras to convince people to support him in the subscriber race. Even Elon Musk got involved.
But the “Subscribe to PewDiePie” movement took a dark turn that ultimately will likely cause PewDiePie—whose ties to the far-right still can’t be ignored—and most everybody who supported him to halt that messaging.
The alleged gunman in last week’s New Zealand mosque shooting cited PewDiePie in clips that went viral, saying, “Remember lads … subscribe to PewDiePie.” That led PewDiePie to tweet, “Just heard news of the devastating reports from New Zealand Christchurch. I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person.”
Since then, the “Subscribe to PewDiePie” meme has significantly cooled, meaning it’s likely that T-Series will remain at the top. But PewDiePie—who has been the No. 1 YouTuber since 2013—hasn’t given up yet.
Tseries passing.. pic.twitter.com/KtUMMf0kTW
— ƿ૯ωძɿ૯ƿɿ૯ (@pewdiepie) March 20, 2019
this is not the end pic.twitter.com/jiutxgAeMg
— ƿ૯ωძɿ૯ƿɿ૯ (@pewdiepie) March 21, 2019
And perhaps all hope is not lost. From the time I began writing this article until the time it was published, PewDiePie has cut down that 30,000 subscriber lead to about 20,000. So, it’s not assured that T-Series is permanently at the top. But it’s certainly trending in that direction.
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.