Apparently, YouTube has a short memory. Three years ago, Felix “Pewdiepie” Kjellberg’s YouTube Red series, Scare Pewdiepie, was canceled due to controversy from “anti-semitic” jokes in a video on his channel. Now, YouTube has signed Pewdiepie to a deal that adds the largest non-corporate YouTuber to its stable of exclusive streamers.
The contract with Pewdiepie is just the latest in moves by significant streaming platforms to secure exclusivity for their talent. YouTube has already signed big names like CouRage, Lachlan, LazarBeam, Muselk, Typical Gamer, and Valkyrae, who together have over 140 million subscribers. Pewdiepie, as the largest individual YouTuber, almost doubles that reach with his 104 million subs.
YouTube has far and away the most total hours of gaming content watched compared to other platforms. However, YouTube Gaming Live streams only bring in around a third of the audience that Twitch does.
The oddest thing about this announcement is YouTube’s newfound willingness to work with Pewdiepie. The platform washed its hands of him in early 2017 when he released a video in which he paid Fiverr freelancers to hold a sign that read “Death to all Jews.” Pewdiepie defended the video as an experiment in how far Fiverr workers would go with a request. However, media backlash to the stunt resulted in YouTube canceling Kjellberg’s YouTube Red series and pulling his Google Preferred advertising status. Additionally, Pewdiepie’s YouTube network, Maker Studios, cut connections with him due to the video.
Since YouTube parted ways with Pewdiepie, he hasn’t precisely shied from controversy. In September 2017, he blurted out the n-word during a livestream and has been caught up in additional minor snafus since.
Regardless of Pewdiepie’s previous behavior, YouTube’s decision to sign him shows a continued trend of selective punishment by the platform. For example, both Forgotten Weapons and Hickok45, who make educational videos about firearms, have had many videos demonetized. On the flip side Logan Paul, who posed with a dead body, monetized it, then monetized his apology video. His only punishment was he had his Google Preferred ad status and projects with YouTube put on hiatus. He still makes videos and is still eligible for monetization.
I’m not calling for anyone to be punished, but I would like YouTube to be more transparent in their policies, especially when it comes to allowed content and monetization. Like many other social media platforms, YouTube has been incredibly opaque about what’s allowed and what’s not, and by signing Kjellberg (again), they’ve blurred the lines even more.