Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran have each racked up more than 15 billion views on YouTube. Justin Bieber beats them both, with 18 billion views.
But none of those megastars comes close to T-Series.
Although not widely known in the United States, T-Series, an Indian music label and film production company, has the most watched YouTube channel in the world. Its videos have been seen 53 billion times. The channel gains more than 100,000 subscribers a day and is about to pass the controversial personality PewDiePie to become the most subscribed to channel on YouTube.
And thanks to a rapidly growing online Indian viewer base and increasing international interest, its rise is not likely to slow anytime soon.
While T-Series may be thriving in the internet age, it began far before the internet became popular. The company was founded in the early 1980s by Gulshan Kumar, previously a fruit-juice seller, as a cassette tapes operation. It rose from issuing pirated recordings to producing film music for Bollywood blockbusters like 1990’s “Aashiqui.” By the mid 1990s, the company was a large conglomerate and a central part of India’s media landscape, with subdivisions in film, television, real estate and even toothpaste and detergent.
T-Series started posting trailers and music videos from its catalog on YouTube in earnest in late 2010. Those videos performed modestly, with views in the five and six figures. But most of India was still offline — and YouTube was dominated by idiosyncratic individuals like Smosh and Fred.
India’s internet access got a major boost in September 2016 when the Mumbai-based conglomerate Reliance Industries shelled out $35 billion to launch India’s first 4G network, Reliance Jio, offering free calls and data at minuscule costs.
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