PewDiePie's huge campaign to swat away T-Series and keep his YouTube crown is slowing down

PewDiePie's huge campaign to swat away T-Series and keep his YouTube crown is slowing down

India selfie mobile

Mushfiqul Alam/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The number of Indian smartphone users is growing hugely, and YouTube is one of the most popular apps in the country.

  • PewDiePie is back as the number one YouTuber after briefly losing the spot to Indian music channel T-Series.
  • PewDiePie keeps trading places with T-Series, in part thanks to a sustained campaign by his fans to keep him at the top.
  • But a closer look at the stats suggests T-Series will inevitably win out, because of its sustained pattern of subscriber growth.
  • There's also the fact that India is a huge new market for YouTube, with lots of users preferring to watch content in the local languages.

Felix Kjellberg, the YouTube star better known by his online moniker PewDiePie, has done well to claw back his slot as the most popular YouTuber.

Kjellberg has briefly lost the top spot on a number of occasions in recent days to Indian YouTube channel T-Series, a Bollywood-focused record label and film production firm.

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At the time of writing, Kjellberg has inched ahead again, with a lead of 800 subscribers. He stands at 90,094,985 subscribers, while T-Series has 90,094,194. In other words, they are pretty much neck-and-neck.

PewDiePie's war with T-Series hit the Super Bowl, as YouTuber Mr Beast turned up to the game with 'Sub 2 PewDiePie' shirts


PewDiePie, also known as Felix Kjellberg.


Kjellberg has maintained that slight edge thanks to his fans leading a "Subscribe to PewDiePie" campaign that has, at times, gone too far.

Fans have hacked printers to print out "Subscribe to PewDiePie", graffitied the slogan on a World War II memorial, bought billboards and TV spots, and randomly walked around telling strangers to subscribe. Kjellberg hasn't always approved of these methods, but the upshot is that it has kept him on top.

Read more: PewDiePie briefly lost his crown as the biggest YouTuber on the planet

But statistics from Social Blade suggest that they are fighting a losing battle. Despite the "Subscribe to PewDiePie" campaign bolstering the YouTuber's subscribers by an impressive 700%, T-Series has a stronger and more consistent growth trajectory. The reason? India's 1.3 billion population is getting online, and they love YouTube.

The chart below shows how many subscribers Kjellberg's channel gained each month:


PewDiePie campaign dropoff

Social Blade

PewDiePie saw a massive spike in subscribers after a fan campaign, but it's slowing down.

You can see Kjellberg tended to gain new subscribers in the hundreds of thousands through most of 2018.

That changed when the "Subscribe to PewDiePie" campaign kicked off in earnest at the end of 2018, and Kjellberg gained more than 6 million subscribers in a single month. You can see the sudden spike on the graph.

The campaign almost immediately started slowing down, with Kjellberg gaining around 4 million subscribers in January, and a similar number in February.

To be clear, this is still an impressive gain versus how Kjellberg was doing before the "Subscribe to PewDiePie" campaign. His audience is growing, not shrinking, and that four million number may spike again.


But look at Kjellberg's statistics versus T-Series.

You can see T-Series' growth trajectory is much steadier, and there are no sudden spikes. The channel has been recently adding between three to five million subscribers per month, according to Social Blade, showing more consistent growth than Kjellberg's channel.

PewDiePie vs T-Series comparison chart

Social Blade

The pattern suggests that T-Series will naturally outpace Kjellberg's channel over time. In part, that's thanks to India's growing smartphone population.

According to eMarketer, just a quarter of India's population owns a smartphone, so there is still room for massive growth.


And YouTube is already hugely popular. YouTube's Asia chief Marc Lefkowitz told The Economic Times in October that 245 million Indians access YouTube every month. Importantly, he added, 95% of those users were looking at content in local languages and local dialects - suggesting English-speaking content creators like PewDiePie won't necessarily experience a surge in popularity from new Indian viewers.