What is the Watcher YouTube controversy? Entertainment studio loses thousands of subscribers over subscription scandal

Popular entertainment studio Watcher on YouTube loses thousands of subscribers over upcoming paid-subscription service. (Image via X/@wearewatcher)
Popular entertainment studio Watcher on YouTube loses thousands of subscribers over upcoming paid-subscription service. (Image via X/@wearewatcher)

Popular YouTube channel Watcher — a production studio known for its unscripted series and comic videos is moving its content to a subscription-based streaming service. Creators Ryan Bergara, Shane Madej and Steven Lim shared the news with their viewers on Friday, April 19.

Their original series included Mystery Files, Puppet History and Ghost Files, which will now be moved to their subscription-based service, Watcher. The creators said their original series will be available on the new streaming service for $59.99/year or $5.99/month.

However, many followers were unhappy with the sudden decision, leading to the channel losing over 50k free subscribers on YouTube. The creator trio addressed the backlash in another video shared on April 22 and apologized to their fans.


Watcher's latest announcement, backlash and apology

Steven, Ryan and Shane created the channel in 2020. They have shared content related to edutainment, food and paranormal activity till now. The channel will be keeping these videos on the platform, and will also post the first episodes of its new seasons on YouTube. However, one can watch all the episodes exclusively on its paid streaming service.

The creators who previously worked for Buzzfeed will shoot a new series that will bring forth a reunion between the team behind the network’s food show Worth It. A new travel series beginning in South Korea’s Seoul will also be there on the subscription content.

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In the April 19 video, Ryan said:

"As sad as it is to say goodbye to YouTube...it's the right thing to do."

Shane Madej exclaimed:

"If this is my last time on YouTube, then baby, what a life I've lived here on this platform!"

Steven followed:

"I grew up on YouTube. All of my heroes were on YouTube. I learned how to be a human on YouTube. Taking a step away from it...it's just tough because I've always really loved and cared about the YouTube community. So, it's hard to leave."

However, fans expressed their anger and disappointment at the news. Several YouTube subscribers of the channel pointed out the expensive subscription scheme. They said it would be difficult for international users to afford. Some noted the studio already had a three-tier ( $5, $10, and $25 per month) paid service on Patreon. These tiers come with perks depending on the level.

Some others mentioned the skyrocketing economy in the US would not allow them to pay for another subscription service.

Following the backlash, Ryan Bergara said on Monday that their initial goodbye message to their followers was “insensitive”. He added:

“We didn’t properly express how much we appreciate all of you, and we did a really bad job of explaining the reasoning behind this transition.”

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Steven Lim added:

“We also want to deeply apologize for our ignorance around the impact of the cost [of the Watcher subscription-streaming service]. We regret stating and implying that it’s a price that anybody can afford, and we fully acknowledge that it is not.”

The trio said they are moving their content because they were financially struggling to survive in the online market. Ryan explained:

“When we started Watcher, we wanted to create shows that we were proud of, that we had ownership over, and that would provide you the caliber of content that we felt you deserved.”

He continued:

“However, we were finding it harder and harder to stay relevant to advertisers in the constantly changing YouTube landscape.”

He further said they did not want to compromise their content and wanted to ensure the videos met advertising requirements. They also did not intend to lay the team behind the workspace off, nor did they wish to shut down the channel. But if they solely delivered their content on YouTube, Watcher would have eventually come to a close.

Thus, Steven, Ryan and Shane decided to launch the new streaming platform watchertv.com so that they could continue bringing great content to the viewers, all while being able to pay their staff fairly.

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