YouTube has pulled PewDiePie from it subscription-based YouTube Red service and the Walt Disney Co’s-owned Maker Studios has severed ties with the channel over anti-Semitic remarks that host Felix Kjellberg claims was a misunderstood joke and commentary.
PewDiePie is by far the most popular YouTube channel, with 52 million subscribers worldwide and Kjellberg is probably the best-known influencer on the channel.
The remarks and controversy about these vlogs shows the pitfalls advertisers face when they rely on influencers whose fame often is directly tied to their odd and sometimes raw sensibilities.
“We’ve decided to cancel the release of 'Scare PewDiePie Season 2'[from YouTube Red] and we’re removing the PewDiePie channel from Google Preferred,” said a YouTube spokesperson. Google Preferred is the advertising service for engaging and top-tiered brand-safe content.
“Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate,” a spokesperson for Maker Studios told The Wall Street Journal.
YouTube Red considered its PewDiePie content there as a major draw for paying subscribers.
The PewDiePie videos are mainly viewed by teenage boys and young men. Ostensibly, they involve PewDiePie’s running commentary on egames, but over the years, episodes have evolved so that the content more often resembles the rambling discourses of FM radio shock jocks.
In January, PewDiePie claimed to be amused by on online service called Fiverr where people can consent to requests to do odd tasks for $5. He said he never believed anyone would fulfill his request to hold up a banner reading “Death to all Jews” -- but two South Asian men who go by the name Funny Guys did, and PewDiePie showed the result.
Several videos followed in which he tried to explain why he did it. It was not anti-Semitic, he argued, because the stunt was so stupid. But he also said that he was just the necessary part needed by news Web sites that could exploit his controversies.
“The problem with all my videos lately is that they take all the stuff I say out of context because that’s what going to get clicks,” the Swedish-born host said. A graphic on YouTube today for that video, called “In My Defense,” says “The Uploader has not made this video available” but MediaPost detailed it earlier.
Kjellberg debuted PewDiePie in 2010. Since then, he has gathered over 14 billion views, and PewDiePie is the most viewed channel of all time. He is one of few YouTube personalities who seemed to have broken through to a wider audience via TV appearances.
On several occasions he has threatened to quit -- either in fact or in jest -- frustrated by how he felt he was being treated by YouTube. He may have sensed the direction his latest controversy was taking.
“Now 2017 is the year it’s going to go bad for me,” he says in the “In My Defense” video.