YouTube megastar PewDiePie, the platform’s most popular creator, has hit 50 million subscribers – and the vlogger and gaming comic says he’ll follow through on his threat to take down the channel on Friday following a dispute with the Google-owned platform regarding the decline in page views.
PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, tweeted on Thursday that he will “remove tomorrow 5:00 p.m. GMT,” which would be noon Eastern Time in the United States. The YouTuber landed his 50 millionth subscriber worldwide around 5:00 p.m. ET on Thursday.
However, it’s still unclear how serious Kjellberg is about his wish to ax the channel.
[UPDATE, Dec. 9, 12:15 p.m. ET: PewDiePie admitted that his threats were all just an attention-seeking stunt. He didn’t delete his primary channel — but did disable a joke account he’d recently set up to tweak another YouTube gamer. Read the full story: YouTube’s PewDiePie Punks Fans, Admits Threat to Delete Channel Was a Joke]
The Swedish-born YouTuber, now based in the UK, has a penchant for pranks and showmanship. PewDiePie (whose current profile picture on the site is that of Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook) loved tweeting fake news about himself, and his Twitter account was briefly suspended in August after he joked that he had joined the Islamic terrorist group ISIS.
PewDiePie’s statement to reboot his YouTube channel to 50 million subscribers appears to be aimed at getting the attention of YouTube superiors, as well as increasing video views with his stagings.
In a December 2 videoPewDiePie said he would delete his channel once it hit 50 million subscribers, expressing frustration over changes YouTube apparently made to its recommended videos section which he said resulted in a loss of views.
“It looks like YouTube wants to promote random shitty videos that you don’t talk about,” grumbled PewDiePie. “It’s like a kick in the face when they make changes and don’t tell anyone.” He also complained that subscribers were not notified of new videos in their feeds and that some were unsubscribed from channels.
Last week he tweeted: “Some progress is being made. Keep forks and tourches (sic) off for now” but later posted on Twitter“If I pull 2 million views per video with 50 million subscribers, I’d rather reboot and get rid of inactive accounts and piss people off in the process, thanks.” Then on December 5, he tweeted that “YouTube has responded and digs into the issues”.
In a follow-up video, Kjellberg claimed that most YouTubers generate about half of their views from recommended and suggested videos. According to Kjellberg, before November 2016, he got around 30% of his views from YouTube’s suggested videos section, but that dropped to less than 1% for videos he uploaded in the last month. Kjellberg said YouTube recommendations now seem to emphasize viral videos and older content with high click-through rates, adding that pornography has appeared in its suggested videos feed.
Asked for comment, a YouTube representative said, “We are in contact with YouTube creators to address their concerns.”
Regarding allegations of subscriber declines, YouTube said it conducted “a thorough review and found that there has been no decline in creator subscriber counts beyond what is occurring. normally when viewers unsubscribe from a creator’s channel or when YouTube removes spammy subscribers.”
But YouTube hasn’t offered any explanation as to why viewership numbers are dropping for PewDiePie as well as other YouTubers. According to Kjellberg, YouTube told him that it had made no changes to its content recommendation algorithm.
Burnie Burns, co-founder and creative director of digital studio Rooster Teeth, said it looks like YouTube has made some changes to make user engagement a priority. According to him, however, the Internet video giant is justified in its efforts to continuously improve the functioning of the site as a whole.
“YouTube owes us nothing but a healthy platform,” Burns said. “If they decide changes are needed for the good of all creators, that’s what they need to do.” Rooster Teeth offers original shows like “Red vs. Blue” and “RWBY” on its own subscription service before uploading them to YouTube for free. The company is a division of Fullscreen Media, which is owned by Otter Media (a joint venture of AT&T and the Chernin Group).
Meanwhile, Kjellberg said his concern about YouTube’s recent changes has to do with making it the best possible place for creators and their fans, and that he doesn’t care about racking up huge views. . “Believe it or not, it’s not about the money for me,” he said in a Dec. 4 video. “I think if this continues it will kill a lot of channels.”
The 27-year-old generated $15 million in gross income for the 12 months to June, according to Forbes. The magazine attributed Kjellberg’s 20% year-over-year gain largely to his YouTube Red series, “Scare PewDiePie,” and sales of his debut book, “This Book Loves You.”