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Watcher Entertainment alienates core demographic of fanbase by switching from YouTube to paid streaming service. (Op-Ed)

I have been watching Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej of Watcher Entertainment since their early days on Buzzfeed. Who wasn’t obsessed with the YouTube series Buzzfeed Unsolved? The chemistry between these two talented men is palpable, and they feed off of each other’s unique energy. When Madej, Bergara, and Steven Lim left Buzzfeed in 2020 to start their own company, Watcher Entertainment (simply known as Watcher), I was ecstatic. Boasting impressive television-quality shows such as “Ghost Files,” “Mystery Files,” and “Puppet History,” their content kept me entertained and sane during the pandemic. Their videos are funny, yes, but incredibly engaging and often very educational. Watcher scratched the little itch in my brain that no other creator could. Now, many fans, including myself, must say goodbye to our three favorite boys.

This morning, I woke up to a YouTube notification from Watcher titled “Goodbye Youtube.” My heart sunk into my stomach like a rock made from pure lava and the embodiment of fear – what do you mean “goodbye?” The fifteen-minute video starts with a loving reflection of Bergara, Madej, and Lim’s time on YouTube, not just their growth and development as artists, but also as people. And then… the dreaded capitalist cash grab.

Watcher will no longer be posting content on YouTube. They have created and launched their very own streaming service, Watcher TV. For the “affordable” price of $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year, you can enjoy all of Watcher’s 376 videos as well as future projects to come. While the video implies that their entire backlog will be removed from YouTube on May 31st, Bergara said that their old videos would still be on the platform.

“From the very start of Watcher, our goal was to make television-quality unscripted content, and while YouTube helped us start that journey, the only way we can fully realize that vision is to do it on our own platform,” Bergara said, “So while it’s scary to leave a place that has been an amazing home to us, we know that this is a risk worth taking, just like leaving BuzzFeed was back in 2019.”

Naturally, I took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to see if I was the only one who felt sick, heartbroken, and undeniably hurt. The public backlash Watcher is facing is intense. I have never seen a comments section be purely of one opinion; the fans hate it. It’s not that we don’t want to support the boys and their company, but it just doesn’t make sense to be forced to pay for what was once free.

The majority of Watcher’s audience are 20-somethings who are financially struggling in an economy set up against us. From broke college students, to broke college graduates who cannot find a job in an ailing market, to older fans who have crippling student debt and families to feed, it seems that Watcher has completely lost touch with the demographic of their fanbase. We do not have the money to pay for yet another subscription. Even if I did have the money, how can I justify paying that price for one episode a week? Watcher’s current output does not warrant their own streaming platform. Rent is unaffordable, and most of us live paycheck to paycheck. We cannot justify paying for another subscription when we cannot even afford groceries. I understand that Watcher needs to generate revenue to succeed as a business, but this is not the way to do that. They are going to lose half, if not more, of their dedicated, affectionate fanbase. As for international fans, the price tag is even more daunting and completely unthinkable due to conversion rates.

No one is happy about this. Within thirty minutes of the announcement being posted, over 1,000 comments expressing anger, upset, and general dislike for the streaming service flooded YouTube. On X, the reaction is the same. It is an overwhelming plea from the community begging Watcher to rethink and reconsider this move. Many fans are shocked, with Watcher being the last entity they ever thought would move towards profit and virulently away from fans. Fans feel alienated, discarded, and unappreciated.

Ryan, Shane, and Steven – This is a huge mistake. Please think about who your fans are and how we have directly contributed to your success. Watcher can no longer be watched without getting past a ridiculous paywall. We don’t care about production value; we care about you three. Your fans want to watch you laugh and goof off ‑ Watcher is so damn popular due to the dynamic between you guys! We, the fans, do not want this change. We love you dearly, but this is goodbye.

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