Disney has ended its deal with PewDiePie, one of YouTube’s biggest stars, after complaints of anti-Semitic jokes in some of his recent videos.
PewDiePie is the biggest earner on YouTube, raking in $15m in 2016 for content that originated with the Swede – whose real name is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg – playing video games.
Branching into more mainstream entertainment, PewDiePie has attracted millions of YouTube subscribers and, until this week, a deal with Maker Studios, a division of Disney.
The Disney deal has now been pulled, after sketches viewed as anti-Semitic in videos from recent months were pointed out, with one in particular proving too much for Maker Studios to support.
A January video from PewDiePie allegedly featured two men holding up a sign that read, ‘Death To All Jews’. It was created through the Fiverr service, where people are paid $5 to say things.
“Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate,” said a Maker Studios spokesperson.
PewDiePie was with the latter online video network long before Disney purchased it for $675m in 2014. Indeed, his position with the group was so strong that last year, he partnered directly with Maker Studios to create his own entertainment network, called Revelmode.
According to The Wall Street Journal, PewDiePie posted nine videos that included anti-Semitic content since last August. Three of these have been removed.
“I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes,” said PewDiePie in a Tumbler post following the controversy.
“I make videos for my audience. I think of the content that I create as entertainment, and not a place for any serious political commentary.”
PewDiePie did concede that the content related to Maker Studios leaving him was “ultimately offensive”.
Last year, claims that PewDiePie would quit YouTube once he reached 50m subscribers proved unfounded – he now has 53m subscribers – and his earnings in 2016 were up 20pc on the previous year.
The spike in income was attributed to the fact that he branched out from his surreal videos, releasing a book that sold over 100,000 copies and launching a new series on YouTube Red.