YouTube and Pewdiepie Can't Afford to Quit Each Other

YouTube just announced that it has signed an exclusive live streaming deal with Pewdiepie, completely ignoring years of bad behavior.
May 4, 2020, 6:07pm
PewDiePie - Headshot
Image: YouTube

Felix Kjellberg, better known as Pewdiepie and owner of the most popular individually operated channel on YouTube, has signed an exclusive deal with Google's ubiquitous video platform to promote its live streaming service, a clear competitor to the Amazon-owned Twitch.

On the one hand, this is a no-brainer. Getting the most popular creator on YouTube's platform and one of the most famous personalities in video games globally to promote YouTube's live streaming service is an obvious choice. On the other hand, much like YouTube itself, Kjellberg has been mired in controversy for years, all of it self-inflicted and easily avoidable. And while YouTube and Kjellberg have often been publicly at odds, with Kjellberg taking shots at the company in his massively popular videos and YouTube previously distancing itself from its most popular creator for numerous controversies, both sides are now doubling down on each other and ignoring many of YouTube's most harmful aspects in the process..


In 2018, Motherboard wrote about the way in which he taught his fans to harass women streamers (we still get hateful emails and tweets from his fans about this story today). A year earlier, he apologized for using the n-word during a live stream, much like the one YouTube just announced they enlisted him to promote. Earlier that same year, YouTube famously canceled an original series featuring Kjellberg over an anti-Semitic joke video he made. The press release announcing the exclusivity deal obviously doesn't mention any of this.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It's not as if Kjellberg has spent time since then rehabilitating his image, or making overtures to YouTube. He's had plenty of controversies since, and has started his "Pew News" series of videos, many of which focus on needling YouTube and the media for political correctness.

“YouTube has been my home for over a decade now and live streaming on the platform feels like a natural fit as I continue to look for new ways to create content and interact with fans worldwide,” Kjellberg said in a statement. “Live streaming is something I'm focusing a lot on in 2020 and beyond, so to be able to partner with YouTube and be at the forefront of new product features is special and exciting for the future.”

YouTube, in the past, has made supposedly principled decisions regarding Kjellberg, and Kjellberg in turn has spent much time detailing YouTube's failures in treating creators like himself. But, as we can see, neither side is all that principled when it comes to the bottom line. YouTube can't not use its most powerful creator if it wants a chance in hell in competing with the already-dominant Twitch, and Kjellberg can't walk away from a YouTube channel with more than 100 million subscribers, and whatever YouTube is paying him for this exclusivity deal.

YouTube is Pewdiepie, Pewdiepie is YouTube, and neither will change because they need each other too much.