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An Update: Watcher Backtracks on Controversial Decision

“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become three guys on a couch.” 

This was just one of over 30,000 comments left on Watcher Entertainment’s “Goodbye YouTube” video following the announcement of the company’s new streaming service on April 19. 

Created in 2019 by content creators Ryan Bergara, Shane Madej and Steven Lim, best known for their work with BuzzFeed in the later 2010s, Watcher Entertainment faced backlash from their online community after announcing the launch of their new streaming service. 

The original video was uploaded to the company’s channel last Friday. The documentary style production was almost 15 minutes long. It featured the Watcher creators discussing their time on YouTube before, during and after their time with both BuzzFeed and Watcher. 

In the video, the creators announced they would be exiting YouTube and begin releasing their pre-existing and new shows – such as “Ghost Files,” “Mystery Files” and “Puppet History” – to Watcher TV, the company’s independent streaming service. 

“The new streamer, I think, is a place that reflects what our content is,” Madej said in the video. “High quality series in season form, beautifully organized, ad-free. It’s what we were destined to be.” 

According to the creators, the majority of Watcher’s funding comes from advertisers and sponsorships.  

“Unfortunately, over time, the deals that we were getting in 2019, 2020 are looking a lot different than they are today,” Lim said in the video. “We’re making something for two audiences. We’re making it for the 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.” 

The transition from YouTube, as the creators explained, was being done to allow production of some of their popular shows to continue without changing the content to be suitable for advertisers. It would also allow them to bring back shows that did not perform well on YouTube, create new shows and potentially bring in new creators. 

Then, the ball was dropped.  

New content for the company’s popular and previously free shows would now be behind a paywall.  

“You can become a member of Watcher for 5.99 a month, or 59.99 a year,” Lim said when asked to explain the services price. “We wanna keep the price low enough where anybody and everybody is able to afford it, but it also has the support the things that we do here. So that was the number that just made the most sense for the streamer.” 

That is when the comments came rolling in, and not just beneath the video. 

“I watched the finale of Ghost Files season 2 while standing in line at the food bank,” user @Kaya5778 wrote in the video’s comments. “To claim you’ve made your streaming service ‘$5.99 so everyone can afford it’ is completely delusional.” 

“Listen I love Watcher and the content they put out, but respectfully… Get over yourselves,” X user @froaklies posted. “I don’t think your audience of broke college students is going to pay for another subscription service just to watch content they’ve been getting for free for years. Horrible move.” 

“The boss that drives a Tesla while hiring more staff then had the audacity to ask his audiences for monthly subscription to pay his staff is WILD,” Instagram user @raizo291 wrote in reference to Lim’s car and the hiring of two of his previous BuzzFeed partners being added to Watcher four days before the streaming service was released. 

“Ever had a friend that became friends with the popular kids?” Commenter @LactoseClergy wrote on YouTube. “And suddenly you can’t sit with them at lunch anymore? Or talk to them on the bus? This feels like that.” 

On Monday, after a weekend of silence, the creators released a new video titled “An Update.” 

“We messed up,” Lim said at the start of the video. “A lot of you spoke out with extremely valid comments and concerns, and we wanna take the time now to address those.” 

We’re sorry for how we originally delivered our goodbye message to YouTube,” Bergara said in the video. “It was insensitive. We didn’t properly express how much we appreciate all of you. And we did a really bad job of explaining the reasoning behind this transition.” 

“We also want to deeply apologize for our ignorance around the impact of the cost,” Lim continued. “We regret stating and implying that it’s a price that anybody can afford, and we fully acknowledge that it is not. We didn’t take the proper consideration for how this cost would affect you and hope you know that we are taking this as a serious learning experience.” 

Madej then announced that while the streaming service would remain active, new episodes of Watcher content will continue to be uploaded to YouTube a month being released on Watcher TV.  

The creators re-explained in greater detail their decision to make the streaming service, including the plan to use the new funds in order to continue fairly paying their staff without having to turn to lay-offs. They also explained the funds would be used to hopefully create the television-quality content the group hopes to produce. 

“However, we realize that in figuring out the logistics of what this might take, we overlook the way it would impact all of you,” Bergara said. “We hope you’ll be patient with us through these mistakes and we remain incredibly sorry that they were made in the first place.” 

“We are forever grateful to all of the people who make up our community, and we hope that you consider joining us in this next chapter of our journey, whether that’s on YouTube or on the platform,” Madej added. 

Throughout the video, the creators continuously apologized to their fans and thanked the support their community gave them over the years. They also announced they would be fully issuing refunds to both those who wanted to cancel the Watcher TV subscriptions and their Patreon supporters who would receive free subscriptions due to their previous monetary support. 

While there were some negative comments across the company’s social media platforms, many supporters thanked the creators for their apology and consideration. 

“Just please remember the audience is here for you guys and not the ‘high budget production,’” user @gryphorawing wrote under the update video. 

“They stated that what we all were saying was valid,” X user @shanesmonitor wrote. “They were indeed insensitive on what they thought were affordable prices, and were indeed not. They listened to us and made a compromise that I am happy with.” 

Written by Bailey Storey, Editor-In-Chief. Photo courtesy of Watcher.

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