YouTube is nothing short of incredible for both brands and influencers.
When people visit, they often stay for hours, skipping from one video to the next – and with nearly 1.7 billion monthly users worldwide, it’s got the potential to catapult you or your brand to superstardom quicker than virtually any other platform out there.
But what makes top YouTubers special? Why have the top YouTube channels got to where they are today?
We’ll take a look at the most subscribed YouTuber channels and most popular YouTubers – and take in an in-depth look at what’s made them so successful.
Who has the most subscribers on YouTube?
Although it’s not the only key performance indicator on the platform, the most popular YouTubers tend to have the most channel subscribers.
A subscriber is a channel’s most loyal fan. They want to know the moment that new content is released – and they’re happy for their love for your channel to be known publicly. Most subscribers on YouTube act a little differently to casual viewers too – consuming twice as much video content than non-subscribers.
As a result, famous Youtubers can attribute a lot of their income to their subscriber numbers – it’s a solid metric that indicates to both YouTube and third-party brands that their content is going to get a lot of exposure.
The 20 most popular YouTubers’ channels
Let’s take a look, in reverse order, at the channels with the most YouTube subscribers – and explore some lessons that brands and influencers can learn from the platforms most popular content.
20. Whinderssonnunes (39.2m subscribers)
Whindersson Nunes Batista is a Brazilian comedian and singer who has racked up nearly 3.5 billion views – making him one of most subscribed YouTube channels in South America.
Interestingly, Whindersson’s channel is a lesson in never giving up on your influencer dream. Although he started producing YouTube videos at the age of 15, his first attempts at popularity on the platform were not successful – and it wasn’t until a few years later that he really broke through.
In terms of content, the channel mostly focuses on cultural parodies – but he also creates vlogs, movie reviews, and occasionally touches on songwriting. Whindersson’s channel is also proof that popular YouTubers don’t have to be skilled at editing – as very few of his videos use anything but simple cuts.
19. Ariana Grande (40.6m subscribers)
It’s difficult to find anything that Ariana Grande can’t do. Starting as a child star in the Broadway theatre, she went on to stardom on children’s Nickelodeon shows – before breaking into music in 2013 – instantly hitting number 1 in the US.
Within 3 years, she’d score her first number 1 album in the UK – and would become the first female artist to knock herself off number 1 in the singles chart.
With this amount of raw talent, it’s probably no surprise to find she’s also behind one of the world’s most popular YouTube channels too. Ariana’s content is mostly music videos – but there’s plenty of exclusive live show footage in there for fans too.
18. HolaSoyGerman (40.7m subscribers)
Home of Chilean YouTube superstar Germán Alejandro Garmendia Aranis, HolaSoyGerman always features on the list of most popular YouTube channels in South America.
Amazingly, Germán Garmendia’s talent for creating observational comedy vlogs doesn’t just power this channel – it’s also the driving force behind the JuengaGerman and HolaSoyGerman2 channels, with a combined subscribed tally of over 80 million, and around 15 billion combined views.
Garmendia is proof that you can recover from a few influencer faux-pas and still become one of the most viewed YouTube channels too. In 2013, another YouTuber posted a video apparently proving that Garmendia had ‘sub-botted’ – the practice of paying automated services to boost his subscriber numbers. Despite this, the channels have gone from strength to strength – and have led to sell-out live shows and even clothing ranges.
17. EminemMusic (42.4m subscribers)
Eminem is likely to need no introduction. As one of the 21st Century’s most recognisable faces, his successes include songwriting, rapping, music production, acting, film production – and even establishing a charitable foundation that supports disadvantaged and at-risk youths in the Detroit area.
Eminem’s YouTube channel doesn’t feature much of Marshall Mathers himself – but it’s an extensive catalogue of videos, trailers, live performances, and interviews from appearances across the globe.
In early spring 2020, The video for Eminem’s ‘Rap God’ became his third to rack up more than 1 billion views on YouTube – despite only hitting number 7 in the US billboard charts back in 2013. This incredible tally of views goes to show that great content has the potential to stay popular for years after it’s uploaded.
16. Badabun (43m subscribers)
The Badabun YouTube channel is run by the Badabun network – a Mexican entertainment company that creates a range of reality and light entertainment shows.
One of the network’s most popular shows is called ‘Exponiendo Infieles’ (‘Exposing Infidels’) – a reality show that digs into real lives of couples in an effort to find proof of affairs and secret relationships. It’s not just infidelity that subscribers are keen to see though – the network creates a huge range of shows – from pet rescue features that rehome stray dogs to ghost hunting programmes that see camera crews sent into creepy abandoned locations.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Badabun’s content is quite how much of it involves collaborations with South America’s most famous YouTubers. From pitting influencers against each other in physical challenges - to quiz shows with teams of YouTubers on either side – the network seems to have struck a perfect balance of light entertainment and influencer input.
15. Zee TV (43.7m subscribers)
The Indian market is a tantalising prospect for internet marketers. Thanks to cost-effective mobile devices, internet use is growing quickly in rural areas – and it’s now the second-largest online market in the world behind China (where YouTube is blocked).
So, where do the country’s 629 million mobile internet users get their online entertainment? For a lot of them, it’s Zee TV – a combination of primetime soaps, family shows, Hindi dramas, and talent shows.
The entire Zee’s entire YouTube network – including Zee Bollywood, Zee Classic – and numerous regional Zee channels, is all designed to drive users to the paid Netflix-style service. Given that the YouTube channel and the wider Zee network help to generate around £2 billion in revenue for its parent company, this online approach to marketing seems to be working.
14. Ed Sheeran (44.2m subscribers)
Ed Sheeran’s YouTube channel is further proof that the platform is an incredible place for musicians to share their music and content with fans.
Since it was launched in 2017, the video for his track ‘Shape of You’ has clocked up over 4.7 billion views – making it the third most popular music video on the platform and cementing Sheeran’s place on every list of the most viewed YouTube channels.
It’s no secret that the internet and streaming services in general have changed the way that musicians are paid for their music. In the past, artists’ income would be based on the number of physical albums or singles sold – but streaming impacted that in a big way. As a result, musicians often look for other ways to monetise their content – and YouTube advertising makes that possible.
It’s estimated that through YouTube advertising alone, Sheeran could make upwards of £100,000 for each video on his account – and puts his estimated monthly earnings at around £600,000 from YouTube content alone.
13. Marshmello (44.7m subscribers)
While most of the musicians on this list have been around for a long time – Marshmello’s only been active since 2015 – but during that time, he’s racked up nearly 45 million subscribers and 8.2 billion combined video views.
As well as being one of the highest-paid DJs on the planet, Marshmello likes to mix his musical content up a bit – regularly posting gaming videos and cooking videos; many of them involving big-name artists, gamers, and influencers.
With plenty of musicians happy to just have marketing teams put out their tracks, videos, and media appearances on their YouTube channels, Marshmello’s channel is a bit of a break from the norm – as he’s got plenty of content that’s not available anywhere else. Not only does this expose him to a wider audience on the platform; it also gives his fans a solid reason for hitting the subscribe button and coming back again and again.
12. Dude Perfect (50.5m videos)
The Dude Perfect channel grew from amateur basketball trickshot footage filmed by a group of college roommates from Texas.
While that might not sound like the kind of thing that’ll land you on a list of the top subscribed YouTube channels, when you mix in 5 guys who are genuinely entertaining and having fun together, you get a winning combination.
The Dude Perfect channel got plenty of early success through the group’s charitable approach to marketing their content. After their initial video went viral, Dude Perfect pledged to make a donation to a children’s charity for every 100,000 views that another trickshot video got – and this catapulted the channel to fame.
The Dude Perfect team’s love for sport shines through – and it’s led to hundreds of collaborations with athletes and sportspeople from around the globe.
11. Kids Diana Show (51.9m subscribers)
If you think that videos of a young Ukrainian girl eating chocolate and generally playing with her family and friends doesn’t sound like the recipe for becoming one of the world’s most famous YouTubers – you’d be wrong.
In fact, 6-year old Diana is the star of the most popular channel on Ukrainian YouTube. Most subscribers tune-in for Diana learning English, reviewing toys, and generally vlogging with her Dad about things they’ve been doing – but there’s also a heavy emphasis on eating sugary snacks and chocolate – a feature that scores well with kids but is less popular with parents.
While access to US-based video-sharing and social media apps is something that’s apparently often under scrutiny in Russia and Ukraine, a combined total of over 120 million internet users means it no surprise to find locally produced, family-friendly entertainment appearing in a list of top subscribed YouTube channels.
10. Like Nastya (53.4m subscribers)
With an estimated annual income of around £16 million, Anastasia Radzinskaya recently ranked third in a list of the highest-paid YouTubers in the world – not bad for a 6-year old.
Although the ‘Like Nastya’ channel is her largest YouTube channel, Nastya is the face behind another 5 popular channels – and she’s got a combined subscriber count of 126 million across them all. It’s not just subscribed numbers that are impressive though – in the 5 years that she and her family have been creating content, she’s amassed around 53 billion views too.
Nastya’s story is heart-warming. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was born, her doctors feared she might never be able to speak. Soon after, Nastya's parents started to make videos for their friends and relatives, showing her amazing progress. Shortly afterwards, the videos found a global audience – and now, she helps to produce some of the most popular kids’ content on the platform.
9. Justin Bieber (53.6m subscribers)
It’s fair to say that Justin Bieber divides opinion around the world. Although unquestionably talented, a series of legal issues and controversies have meant the Canadian superstar likely has equal numbers of fans and critics – although that hasn’t stopped him featuring on top subscribed YouTubers lists since around 2010.
In actual fact, Bieber can attribute a lot of his early fame to YouTube. When he was still in his early teens, his producer, Scooter Braun, actively encouraged him to put amateur content out on the platform – taking full advantage of his boyish good looks and singing ability to propel him to fame.
Braun has since said that he decided to avoid using expensive equipment when creating Bieber’s early content – instead, making it look like it was just Bieber and a camera in the room while he sang and played guitar. “We’ll give it to kids, let them do the work, so that it feels like it’s theirs” commented Braun – highlighting the power of YouTube to let great content explode – even if it’s not professionally produced.
8. Zee Music Company (54.1m subscribers)
As part of the same Zee Entertainment Enterprise at Zee TV (number 15 on this list), Zee Music Co has cornered a sizeable portion of the Indian Bollywood music market in a fairly short period of time.
The organisation’s YouTube channel gives a taste of the firm’s absolutely gigantic catalogue of material – apparently including over 222,000 hours of music and video content.
Although Zee Music always features highly on lists of who has the most YouTube subscribers, 2019 and 2020 have seen large increases in the online popularity of Indian entertainment companies – and it joins 3 others on this list. It’s little surprise in a county with a population of around 1.35 billion people – but it’s proof that there’s an enormous and fast-growing subscriber base in non-English speaking countries.
7. Canal KondZilla (57.2m subscribers)
With a population of over 212 million, Brazil is a big country – so it’s nothing short of incredible to discover half of the subscribers to the Canal KondZilla account are confirmed as being unique Brazilian YouTube users; meaning 22% of the population are fans.
The KondZilla account is owned by Konrad Dantas – a screenwriter, director, and founder of the KondZilla Records – the production company behind over 1,000 Latin American hits. KondZilla’s influence brought ‘funk ostentação’ to popularity in Brazil – a type of funk/hip-hop that’s become associated with the troubles in the favelas across the country.
KondZilla is now South America’s number 1 YouTuber – which is impressive to consider when his video production began career began in just 2006; when he bought his first camera with money that he inherited after his mother’s death.
6. WWE (58.7m subscribers)
While there are plenty of more lucrative and popular sports on played globally, none of them quite compare to World Wrestling Entertainment when it comes to YouTube popularity.
With thousands of videos available to view, the WWE channel is a masterclass is big-production online entertainment – with everything from exclusive interviews and classic matches to behind-the-scenes clips and merchandise promotions.
It’s the kind of content that no influencer could ever hope to challenge – but it’s an interesting account to explore – as it shows exactly how to use the platform as a marketing tool to drive huge amounts of interest towards pay-per-view events, paid cable channels, and merchandising outlets.
5. 5-Minute Crafts (66.2m subscribers)
Many of the videos that you’ll find on the 5-Minute Crafts YouTube channel revolve around reusing and recycling – which reflects the fact that virtually all the content they produce is reused from the brand’s Facebook and Instagram output.
This content-recycling isn’t a bad thing though – as 5-Minute Crafts videos are enormously well-received on every platform – with millions of views for every video produced. On YouTube, the brand puts together compilations based around a particular theme – often around DIY, life hacks, or creative crafts.
The 5-Minute Crafts channel is an excellent example of how branding can set you apart from the competition. Although video content can vary from how to make a backpack for a Barbie to how to survive a terror attack; it’s all very obviously shot with the same production values in mind – bold colours, instrumental music, and snappy captions.
The lack of voiceover on almost all videos could be considered a strength of the brand too – since far more non-English speaking viewers will be able to read English (or use their own language’s captions) instead of relying on a narrator.
4. SET India (70.7m subscribers)
SET India actually stands for Sony Entertainment Television India – and while the tech giant focuses on hardware in the West, their production arm is in full-swing across Asia.
Again, SET India takes advantage of the fact that there are over 600 million Indian internet users all hungry for primetime entertainment – so the channel puts out exactly that; quiz shows, talent contents, soaps, comedies, dramas, variety shows, and a lot of religious content.
The SET family includes channels that are dedicated to a wide range of different genres and regional languages – with combined subscribed numbers of well over 100 million. Again, this is the kind of channel with content that no single influencer could hope to recreate – but it’s proof that English speaking audiences are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to YouTube users around the globe.
3. Cocomelon – Nursery Rhymes (79.8m subscribers)
If you came to this list looking for the most wholesome, family-friendly content available anywhere on the planet – you’re in luck, because that’s exactly what’s got the Cocomelon channel close to the top of the highest YouTube subscribers list.
The Cocomelon – Nursery Rhymes channel is every parent of a toddler’s dream come true. Thousands of hours of animated content with catchy, simple songs that are designed to mesmerise young children.
The great news is, this is the kind of content you can use to keep your kids happy with virtually no guilt either. Linguists point out that attention-grabbing rhymes provide the kind of ‘early syntactic cues’ that help youngsters understand how the language they’re learning is used and how words are put together correctly.
It’s little wonder that this kind of content has drummed up so many subscribers. There are around 400 million people in the world who use English as a first language – and an astronomical 1.5 billion who have English as a second language. As a result, it’s fair to assume that CocoMelon – Nursery Rhymes is helping to inspire a new generation of English speakers around the globe.
2. PewDiePie (104m subscribers)
Felix Kjellberg – better known as PewDiePie – is living proof that following your passion can result in amazing things.
After dropping out of university, PewDiePie’s parents refused to support his desire to create online videos – so he supported his passion by working on a hotdog stand while selling artwork he’d created using Adobe Photoshop. Kjellberg still states that his desire to make videos was more important to him that following a career that didn’t interest him – so he stuck at it, despite the fact there was no real ‘gamer-influencer’ defined career path at that stage.
Although he’s diversified into real-life challenges and comedy, PewDiePie’s main focus has always been gaming – and he’s clocked up thousands of hours of videos of games like Minecraft, Call of Duty, Fortnite, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
It’s not always been smooth sailing for PewDiePie’s channel though – with a series of controversies tied to his name that have seen studios and sponsors distance themselves from his brand. Despite this, Kjellberg’s popularity continues; he has an estimated fortune of around £25 million and was recently named as one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time Magazine.
1. T-Series (137m subscribers)
If you came here wondering who has the most subscribers on YouTube – you’ve just found your answer – but don’t you’re not alone if you’ve never heard the T-Series name before.
Like a handful of other entries on this list, T-Series is proof that YouTube’s popularity has exploded in India – and T-Series is the country’s favourite source of both music and film. Alone, the T-Series channel has over 137 million subscribers – and the brand’s 14,000+ videos have racked up over 105 billion views.
The T-Series network stretches wider still though; the company is responsible for 29 different channels with a combined total of 184 million subscribers – and the whole thing is overseen by a dedicated YouTube team within the business. The primary T-Series channel mostly concentrates on music videos and film trailers – almost always in Hindi.
So, what is it that makes T-Series such a YouTube powerhouse? We’ve touched on it already when talking about the Zee TV channel – but experts suggest it’s India’s emerging online population that’s fuelled such amazing growth in the country’s entertainment networks’ presence on the platform. Mobile internet use is growing exponentially – and with entertainment, dance, and music so deeply ingrained in Indian culture, it’s little surprise that a free YouTube channel that provides each of these things in abundance has found itself at the top of the most subscribed YouTube channels list.