YouTube’s biggest star remains PewDiePie, with his 30m subscribers and 449m video views in August 2014 alone.
He’s signed to YouTube’s biggest multi-channel network (MCN) Maker Studios too. But for how long?
In a rare interview with Swedish magazine Icon, PewDiePie – aka Felix Kjellberg – hints at plans to go it alone with his own MCN, to which he may sign other likeminded YouTubers.
Maker Studios was recently acquired by Disney in a deal that could be worth up to $950m, but the claim in Icon’s article that its most popular star’s contract elapses in December is likely to worry both companies.
“The fact that Disney bought Maker Studios doesn’t really change anything for me. If I ask for help, they reply, but that’s all the contact we have. We’ll see what happens,” said Kjellberg, before being asked about past comments about starting a network with his friends.
“Yes, but I’d rather not talk too much about it. I’m in touch with a couple of people who I think would be so right for this. I’m eager to get it all up and running. So far, all the networks have been managed in such an incredibly poor way, it’s embarrassing really. I’d like to help other YouTubers.”
Kjellberg has jumped ship before: before Maker, he was signed to rival MCN Machinima, before hiring a lawyer to free him from his contract. The Icon interview makes clear his feelings that he was neglected by that company, even as he became YouTube’s biggest channel.
Disney will surely work hard to change PewDiePie’s mind about striking out on his own, although another anecdote from the interview suggests his interactions with the company haven’t been entirely positive so far.
“Disney recently sent over a bunch of people dressed as Stormtroopers to make a video together with me, for charity. First of all, they got upset when they found out that there was no specific room for them to change clothes. And then, they didn’t agree to do basically anything in the video because it was not OK with ‘The Star Wars universe’. It all turned into chaos and it took a very long time. Finally, we ended up with something that they were going to edit but it was so bad I had to do it over and edit it myself.”
Kjellberg’s clout has increased rapidly both within YouTube and outside it. In the former case, he has spoken out publicly about YouTube’s commenting system, including vowing to permanently disable comments on his videos from September this year.
“Comments are my main way to communicate with you bros,” he said. “But I go to the comments and it’s mainly spam, it’s people self-advertising, it’s people trying to provoke. I don’t care about that, I want to see what you bros say, but it gets blocked out,” he said at the time, in a video that’s since been watched more than 9m times.
Kjellberg has also tapped his large YouTube audience for charity, raising more than $1m for Charity: Water, Save the Children and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through online campaigns.
This article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Monday 6th October 2014 14.39 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010