The rise of YouTube has led to some unlikely success stories, like a channel that features videos of a woman opening Disney toy boxes, which reportedly raked in $4.9 million in advertising revenue last year.
But the person enjoying the biggest windfall from YouTube might be a Swedish YouTuber named Felix Kjellberg, aka “PewDiePie,” who reportedly made $7.4 million last year by streaming videos of himself playing video games.
Via the Swedish newspaper Expressen (and Google Translate):
Being big mouth is normally not a winning recipe. Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, 25, may be considered the exception.
The annual report for his company Pewdie Productions has just been submitted to the Companies Registration Office and Expressen have taken some of the amazing numbers.
Kjellberg is one of the most popular stars on YouTube, with a fan base (known as the “bro army”) that has garnered him over 37 million YouTube subscribers, more than the population of Canada.
PewDiePie’s channel launched in 2010, and by 2012, Kjellberg had hit 1 million subscribers. In 2013, the New York Times described his shtick as “a 23-year-old Swedish video gamer who records himself reacting — often in horror, sometimes with tears — to various games.” His rise to popularity coincided with what The Atlantic called the “Let’s Play” phenomenon:
PewDiePie is a Let’s Player, one of hundreds of gamers who post “Let’s Plays” online (as in “Let’s Play Super Mario Bros.” or “Let’s Play Grand Theft Auto”), videos that are part “Mystery Science Theater,” part Siskel and Ebert reviews. As a Let’s Player navigates a game, he (or more rarely, she) provides running commentary, usually funny and profane.
According to that same Atlantic piece, Let’s Play’ers make a significant amount of their cash from Google AdSense, which allows prominent YouTubers to place targeted ads next to their videos. PewDiePie also operates a merchandise shop, where you can buy “bro army” shirts for $26.
Despite his lucrative success, PewDiePie insists he’s not in it for the money.
“I’m extremely tired of talking about how much I make,” he told Icon magazine last year.