Watcher’s Move Off YouTube to Paid Streaming Service Sparks Angry Fan Backlash

Watcher Entertainment has drawn millions of fans for their unscripted and comedic videos on YouTube — and now the studio’s three creators have drawn the ire of a significant number of them.

On Friday, Watcher, formed in 2019 by former BuzzFeed hosts Steven Lim, Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej, announced that going forward, full seasons of new shows will be available only on a new streaming service ( — priced at $5.99/month or $59.99/year. They said they’ll still upload the first episodes of new seasons of shows like “Ghost Files,” “Mystery Files,” “Road Files” and “Puppet History” (and the archive of existing videos will remain on YouTube).

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The announcement did not go over well. Watcher’s move to a $6-per-month paid subscription elicited a range of mostly negative reaction from Watcher fans (or, perhaps, now-former fans) spanning anger, incredulity, sarcasm and sadness.

“Mystery Files: The Instant Disappearance of The Watcher Audience,” one commenter wrote in reply to the trio’s X announcement.

One fan wrote on X, “You guys are honestly some of my favorite creators on the platform — but with the way *everything* in this country is skyrocketing money-wise, I just can’t justify another subscription service… Hope you guys are all doing okay, but I think this move is a mistake.” Another Watcher fan said, “gonna be honest, I’ve been watching Ryan and Shane since the beginning of Buzzfeed days. I’ve watched them weekly for YEARS now, but I can’t justify paying for another streaming platform just for Watcher shows. this is really sad :( think you’re gonna lose a lot of your audience tbh.” YouTuber Larry Bundy Jr. offered this comment: “Putting all your videos behind a paywall is the nail in the coffin for an internet career. Look at Rooster Teeth, Classic Game Room Etc.”

Others noted that Watcher already has a three-tier paid offering on Patreon ($5, $10 or $25 per month) with varying levels of perks, such as 24-hour early access to new episodes. In addition, some pointed out that the cost of the Watcher subscription could be prohibitively expensive for international users.

“I’m no business person but I would’ve downsized my business before downsizing my fans,” @thequeenkamra5734 wrote in one of the top-voted comments on Watcher’s “Goodbye YouTube” announcement video. Also commenting on the video, @alic6117 noted that Watcher’s pricing is nearly the same as that of major ad-supported streaming services: “Netflix is $6.99 a month, Disney+, $7.99. Prime Video, $8.99. And you’re asking $5.99 a month!… most people have to choose between the three. Do you really think you’re in the same league as the big streaming giants? You really need to press the undo button.”

Lim, Bergara and Madej do not appear to have publicly commented on the backlash. A Watcher Entertainment rep didn’t respond to a request for comment Saturday.

In their “Goodbye YouTube” video Friday explaining the move (which has more than 1.2 million views so far), the Watcher guys provided a recap of their careers from their earliest days at BuzzFeed and how they came to form their current 25-employee company. Much of the video is soundtracked with gentle piano music.

“As sad as it is to say goodbye to YouTube… um, it’s the right thing to do,” Bergara says.

The launch of the Watcher subscription service is to be less reliant on advertising revenue. “In terms of where this company is going and where I believe we can be most successful, YouTube is no longer the place for that,” he says.

Bergara says, “We really couldn’t be more excited for you guys to join us in this next chapter — hopefully. We’d love for you guys to come along for us. But at the same time, this is our final goodbye to YouTube. And if it’s our goodbye to you — I hope it’s not, but if it is — I do want to say ‘thank you’ for supporting us all along the way.”

More than 50% of Watcher Entertainment’s business has come from advertising, Lim says in the video. “We’re making something for two audiences — we’re making it for fans, all of you out there, and we’re also making it to please the advertisers. It’s difficult to make the stuff that we want to make and also then appeal to the advertisers as well.”

In the video, Bergara says Watcher strives to produce high-quality material “that you would find on say, a Netflix.” But that means that each season of a show like “Ghost Files” costs hundreds of thousands of dollars per episode, according to Bergara, when factoring in travel expenses, location fees, freelance production staff, studios fees and postproduction costs. He says with the subscription service, Watcher will be able to invest in expanded content — for example, “Ghost Files” will be traveling to the U.K. in upcoming episodes.

Watcher also plans to launch new series, including food-and-travel show “Travel Season,” a six-episode series premiering May 31 that reunites the team behind BuzzFeed’s “Worth It”: Andrew Ilnyckyj, Adam Bianchi and Lim.

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