These Are the 18 Most Popular YouTube Stars in the World -- and Some are Making Millions
But PewDiePie, who has more than 54 million YouTube subscribers and made about $15 million in 2016, didn't go silent. Instead, after apologizing for a joke he said went too far, PewDiePie gave the middle finger to The Journal in an explosive video.
Since then, PewDiePie's subscriber count has increased, many YouTube stars have rallied around him, and he has said he's excited about the new opportunities he'll have as an independent creator.
This situation illustrates the complicated relationships among YouTube stars, their fans and established media brands like Disney. Since 2005, YouTube has become the de facto launchpad for the next generation of celebrities. These stars rack up millions of subscribers and have a direct relationship with fans.
From comedians to gamers to beauty vloggers, YouTubers have generally built their followings outside of the control of media giants, even if they are signing big deals with those companies. And there is power and independence in having that huge fan base.
To get a closer look into which stars rule YouTube, we looked at the SocialBlade rankings to see who had the most subscribers. We focused on independent YouTube stars, disregarding YouTube channels like mainstream music artists.
Here is the new generation of superstars.
PewDiePie -- 54.1 million subscribers
In his YouTube videos, PewDiePie is boisterous and goofy, playing video games and swearing up a storm. PewDiePie -- the YouTube name of 27-year-old Swede Felix Kjellberg -- has used his charisma and close relationship to subscribers (whom he calls "bros") to build a lucrative career around his YouTube output. But PewDiePie came into a negative spotlight recently after a Wall Street Journal report described anti-Semitic messages in his videos, leading Disney and YouTube to cut direct business ties with him (though he hasn't been barred from YouTube).
PewDiePie apologized for taking a joke too far, but he maintained his right to joke about any topic and flipped a middle finger to the media in a response video. Since then, PewDiePie's subscriber count has increased, and he has said he's excited about the new opportunities afforded him as an independent creator.
Germán Garmendia (HolaSoyGerman.) -- 31.2 million subscribers
Chilean YouTuber Germán Garmendia is Latin America's biggest YouTube star. The comedian and musician has two channels in the top 20. He released a book in 2016 titled #Chupaelperro. He became famous with his video "Las Cosas Obvias De La Vida" ("The Obvious Things of Life").
Besides HolaSoyGerman., Garmendia has another YouTube channel called JuegaGerman, which has 18 million subscribers and is focused on video games.
ElRubiusOMG -- 23.5 million subscribers
Smosh -- 22.6 million subscribers
VanossGaming -- 20.2 million subscribers
Fernanfloo -- 20 million subscribers
NigaHiga -- 19.3 million subscribers
Yuya -- 17.8 million subscribers
Whinderssonnunes -- 17.7 million subscribers
Vegetta777 -- 17.3 million subscribers
Samuel de Luque is a wildly popular Spanish YouTuber who has become known for his voiceovers of gameplay videos for Minecraft, Saint's Row and Battlefield. His signature style is to create elaborate narratives and histories for the characters in his video games to make them "like a movie."
On his About page, he says subscribing to his channel makes you risk falling into his madness.
JennaMarbles -- 16.9 million subscribers
Markiplier -- 16.8 million subscribers
Mark Fischbach, better known as Markiplier, is a YouTuber focused on gaming. He has an energetic style that involves a bit of swearing and a lot of emotion. Fischbach has ambitions beyond YouTube, as well.
"I want to push myself into music and acting -- more traditional media stuff," he told Variety last year. "If someone wants to make a movie and have me in it, I want to make sure I have the skill set to do it properly."