We’re all familiar with the type of videos that tend to be big hits on YouTube. There are all those fantastic or particularly awful auditions on TV talent shows, pets greeting their long-lost owners or cats playing the piano. The key to a really successful video is one that amuses the viewer, shocks the viewer or makes the viewer cry. Or ideally all three.
What’s more difficult is building a channel that’s consistently popular. YouTube channels that seem to do the best are generally speaking music-, humour- or gaming-based; the largest fixations of the modern-day generation summed up in three items. As we approach the end of 2014, this article catalogues the twenty biggest channels on YouTube as of this year, based on number of subscribers.
YouTube channel PortaDosFundos is at number twenty, with approximately 9,285,173 subscribers this year. Porta dos Fundos, or ‘backdoor’, is a channel made up of comedy sketches performed by a group of Rio comedians, founded in 2012. The show’s clever and dry wit has made it a huge hit in Brazil, although some sketches have been seen as controversial given their engagement with politics or religion. The show became so popular that in 2013 an Anglophone version of the channel was set up, which gives the videos English subtitles. Not only are the PortasDosFundos’ sketches highly acclaimed, they’re also an enjoyable way to practise or get familiar with Brazilian Portuguese.
At number nineteen is the TaylorSwiftVEVO channel, perhaps unsurprisingly given the huge impact of her most recent album 1989. With about 9,595,594 subscribers at an official count this year, the channel has been in existence since May 2009, and keeps viewers up-to-date with the latest official Taylor Swift music videos. Swift’s newest album, released at the end of last month, marked her fifth studio album and thrilled her fans with its caustic backlash at critics who deemed her a man-obsessed vapid pop star. Given the enormous success of 1989, as well as the enduring popularity of past albums such as Red, it’s not a shock that her video channel should be so highly subscribed.
At number eighteen, with in and around 9,765,396 subscribers this year, is YouTube channel Vanossgaming. The premise of the channel is to make funny gaming videos with Vanoss — a.k.a. Evan — and his friends. Aged twenty-two as of May, Vanoss only began making his own videos in 2011, but has since gained a huge following. He has over three hundred videos which consist of content from games like Call of Duty, Black Ops and Grand Theft Auto V, edited carefully and frequently humorously, which has led to his popularity.
Doing exactly what it says on the tin, YouTube channel TheEllenShow is in at number seventeen. With about 10,281,441 subscribers as of this year, the channel provides viewers with the best bits of all twelve seasons of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, covering funny, thought-provoking and emotive sections alike. As the show is an hour a day, five days a week, and has been running since 2003, the channel boasts a substantial amount of video footage. The general popularity of Ellen DeGeneres herself means that this channel remains consistently highly-viewed.
In at number sixteen is the channel JustinBieberVEVO, with approximately 10,460,453 subscribers in 2014. While Justin Bieber himself is very much a figure of contention, fans of his music have proved devoted with an abundance of subscribers to his official video channel since it was set up in September 2009. Beiber rose to fame as a result of his appearances on YouTube, and his legacy is still upheld there today. His album My World enjoyed considerable success in 2009, but his fame really skyrocketed with the release of the song “Baby” in 2010. This marked the beginning of his loyal fan base, who evidently remain invested in Bieber and his music videos to this day.
YouTube channel skydoesminecraft is at number fifteen. The channel caters for all things Minecraft-oriented, from reviews to comedy skits to actually playing the game, and has around 10,619,627 subscribers as of 2014. The man behind the channel is Adam Dahlberg, who was at one time a member of famous Minecraft group Team Crafted. The channel skydoesminecraft began as a spin-off at the suggestion that Dahlberg should play the game on camera, and Dahlberg uploaded the first video of his Minecraft Let’s Play series. The channel has enjoyed unprecedented success, showcasing the ever-rising popularity of gaming in its every manifestation.
At number fourteen it’s TheFineBros, a YouTube channel with about 10,716,856 subscribers in 2014. TheFineBros are made up of brothers Benny and Rafi Fine, who are possibly most famous for their web series “React”, which features the reaction of different groups of people — teenagers, kids, pensioners — to popular topics like viral videos or celebrities’ actions. Other popular ventures of the brothers include parody channel “Spoiler Alert!” and their web show “MyMusic”. They are often referred to as the first YouTube stars ever, and their appeal is still enduring. As such, they have been featured in numerous major publications which praise their efforts, including the New York Times and Time.
YouTube channel RayWilliamJohnson is at number thirteen, with 10,825,749 subscribers as of this year. The channel’s owner, Ray William Johnson, is a comedian and YouTube celebrity, perhaps most famed for his YouTube-based show “Equals Three”, which provides amusing commentary on topical viral videos. Johnson’s channel has always proved enormously popular; however, earlier this year he announced his retirement from his show after a mere five years. In a Facebook statement to his fans, Johnson said ““It was fun while it lasted, but I figure I should retire the show while it’s still getting good numbers, as opposed to keeping it going for the next few years and inadvertently running it into the ground.” Clearly the ‘leave them wanting more’ attitude has worked, given the high rate of subscribers to the channel in 2014.
At number twelve is YouTube channel ERB, with in and round 11,289,739 subscribers as of 2014. ERB stands for Epic Rap Battles, with the full channel name being Epic Rap Battles of History. ERB was set up in February of 2006 by YouTubers Nice Peter and epicLLOYD, in association with Dave McCary and Maker Studios. The channel gained enormous popularity through its staged humorous videos featuring rap battles between famous figures, historical and otherwise. Samples of those battling include Ghostbusters and Mythbusters, Zeus and Thor, and Sir Isaac Newton and Bill Nye. The abundance of comedy-centred channels in this article suggest that humour is a fail-safe angle to attract subscribers, which is certainly true in the case of ERB.
YouTube channel Machinima is in at number eleven, with approximately 12,081,093 subscribers this year. Another gaming-based channel, Machinima boasts “Inside Gaming Daily and ETC news shows: 5 days a week”. It is one of the most-famed companies to have promoted gaming and fandom culture, and creates and glorifies this content across numerous video platforms. Its website states that Machinima focuses on “scripted, topical and gaming programming”, and is another example of the extreme popularity of gaming in today’s society.
Channel NicaHiga is at number ten. A comedy channel, NicaHiga has amassed around 13,304,614 subscribers over the past year. The man behind the operation is Ryan Higa, a comedian who has been amusing his subscribers since the channel was set up in July 2006. Higa is a YouTube celebrity, whose legacy began with his first videos of him and a friend, Sean Fujiyoshi, which expanded from lip-syncing to further comedic pursuits. Higa’s YouTube name is an amalgamation of niga — the Japanese for ‘rant’ — and his own surname. Niga has a net worth of around two million dollars.
At number nine is the official YouTube channel for Eminem, EminemVEVO, with around 13,939,528 subscribers in 2014. Since the channel was set up in 2009, it has provided a platform for the rapper’s fans worldwide to enjoy his music videos over and again. Although his first and second studio albums were released in 1999 and 2000 respectively, almost a decade before the EminemVEVO channel was set up, videos from throughout Eminem’s career make an appearance. The channel was set up the year after Eminem’s fall from grace — during which he was addicted to drugs and alcohol and almost died as a result — and marked a fresh start in his career and a new lease of life for his fans.
8. Jenna Marbles
Comic vlogger Jenna Marbles is at number eight. Having amassed an impressive 14,281,172 subscribers in the past year, Jenna Marbles — real name Jenna Mourey — set up her channel in 2010 a few years after leaving university. The channel’s videos tend to mainly feature Marbles giving amusing commentary on topical issues or current events, sometimes featuring a cameo from one or both of her two dogs, a chihuahua and Italian greyhound. Her lighthearted, short clips such as “How Girls Fall Asleep” and “How Guys Pack A Suitcase” have led to her enormous and ever-growing popularity on YouTube. Five months ago, the channel celebrated its 200th video.
At number seven it’s the official channel for Katy Perry music videos, KatyPerryVEVO. Set up in 2009, the channel boasts 14,375,693 subscribers as of this year. The usually upbeat-pop tonality to Perry’s songs, as well as her incredibly colourful videos, ensure that her channel increases in subscribers year after year. “I Kissed a Girl”, which could possibly be described as Perry’s breakthrough song, came out in 2008, and the following setup of the KatyPerryVEVO channel coincided with possibly the most famous year of the singer’s life: 2009 was the year that she appeared as an established performer on MTV for an acoustic session, and made headlines round the world for her relationship with British comedian Russell Brand.
Another official music video channel is at number six, this time that of famous boy band One Direction. As of 2014, OneDirectionVEVO had 14,649,198 subscribers, which is especially amazing since both channel and band have only been around since 2010. The Irish-English boy band was set up on British talent show The X Factor in 2010, when judge Simon Cowell decided that the five boys wouldn’t make it as solo artists, but could show real promise as a band. One Direction was set up in July 2010, and consists of Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, and the only Irish member, Niall Horan. Given their young age — the group are all in and around twenty-one years old now — their main fan base is made up of young teenage girls, which may account for the YouTube channel’s enormous popularity, since that age group is ideally suited to frequent use of the website.
Again at number five it’s a music-based channel, with RihannaVEVO boasting around 14,976,573 subscribers this year. Set up in 2009, the channel hosts eighty-four videos featuring Rihanna. The R&B star’s career really took off in 2005, and hit new heights with her change of image from good-girl pop star to good-girl-gone-bad in 2007. As well as having numerous solo hits, including “Umbrella”, Only Girl (In The World)” and “S&M”, Rihanna has collaborated with various big names on the music scene, including Eminem, Kanye West and Jay-Z. These factors combined have probably led to the enormous success of the RihannaVEVO channel.
At number four we have a move away from the music scene, with comedic duo Smosh having around 19,276,216 subscribers to their YouTube channel this year. Smosh is made up of Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox, who began working together around 2002. The Smosh YouTube channel was set up in 2005, and promises subscribers a new video every Friday. Their bizarre videos sometimes scathingly comment on topical subjects — for example, their video “If Bieber Wrote His Songs” — and are sometimes amusingly arbitrary (see “Movies On Drugs” and “Old Age App”). It’s hard to point exactly to Smosh’s target market, but they must be doing something right, given their almost twenty million subscribers.
At number three is seemingly bilingually-named YouTube channel HolaSoyGerman, with over twenty million subscribers in 2014 — around 20,153,046, to be exact. The channel has only been in existence since 2011, and the brains behind it is Chilean comedian German Garmendia (meaning that the channel’s title is in just one language, and means “hi, I’m German”). HolaSoyGerman features comic videos in Spanish generally centred around lifestyle topics, particularly those pertaining to teenagers and young adults. Garmend also has a soft spot for videos centred around relationship complaints.
2. YouTube Spotlight
With approximately 22,248,824 subscribers for 2014, at number two it’s YouTube channel YouTube Spotlight. An innovative and clearly hugely popular idea on the part of the YouTube website, YouTube Spotlight provides users of the site with the videos that are most popular and trending worldwide on any given day. Boasting all areas of interest, “[f]rom music to culture to Internet phenomena”, the channel’s popularity stems from subscribers being able to keep their fingers on the pulse of what’s happening around the world with just one click of a button.
At number one, with a staggering 32,445,004 subscribers this year, is YouTube channel PewDiePie. Another gaming channel, PewDiePie was set up in 2010 by Swedish gamer Felix Kjellberg. The key to his huge success is widely agreed to be his Let’s Play series, which involve filming his own reactions as he plays video games, often horror-based. In 2013 he became the most-subscribed YouTuber of all time, and has safely upheld that record for at least the duration of 2014.