Watcher team, Steven Lim, Shane Madej, Ryan Bergara apology

Here’s Why the Watcher Guys Are Apologizing to Fans

Ah, YouTube. You think you can leave, but it pulls you back in. That’s what the team over at Watcher found when they tried to get off the platform and start their own subscription service in a move so monumentally bad that they have gone and backtracked days later.

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That’s after making their announcement and pissing off almost their entire fanbase. So—what happened?

On Friday, April 19, Watcher released a video that it had been teasing for some time on its social media platforms. The video was titled “Goodbye YouTube” and was a roughly 14-minute documentary-style video where the three core members of the team, Steven Lim, Ryan Bergara, and Shane Made, discussed their career on YouTube to date and how it has impacted them, and then they announced they were leaving … to start their own subscription service that was behind a paywall of $5.99. This did not go well for them, and they had to expect some backlash, but perhaps not quite the extent they received from fans who were felt let down, betrayed, and used by the brand.

The comments under the video came in thick and fast (and hilarious—seriously, some of them are comedy gold), and while some tried to make the point that Watcher is a business, others were just perplexed that they would betray the fanbase that made them. Fans pointed out that $5.99 per month was not affordable for many viewers—not on top of the current cost-of-living crisis, not on top of all the other streaming services that offer a lot more than Watcher would be able to, and not on top of the fact that many of Watcher’s audience are often young adults. They’re either students or in entry-level jobs, struggling to pay rent, groceries, and bills.

Ryan Bergara making a face at his dream in "Too Many Spirits"
(Watcher, YouTube)

I myself have been an avid follower of the guys, from their Buzzfeed days up till now, enjoying the fun content they create, such as the entertainingly unhinged yet deeply informative “Puppet History” series, the daft-and-spooky “Ghost Files,” and the shenanigan-filled “Too Many Spirits”. I’ve loved their content for almost a decade, particularly the relationship between Madej and Bergara, which many fans absolutely adore, but this announcement had me thrown for a loop. I could not conceive how they thought it was a good idea to take all the shows they had created for free, that we came to love, and just stick them behind a paywall.

Fans don’t care about having to see the odd advert or sponsorship; we don’t even care too much about heightened production quality. We want what we’ve always wanted: to watch their relationship, to learn some interesting facts, and watch Bergara try not to lose his sanity in creepy houses. I wondered if money could be an issue for the group, but they have a successful Patreon where they already charge members for extra content, and they likely are making a lot of money from their sponsorships and ads.

Well, after experiencing three days of non-stop anger and disappointment from their fans, they came back—to apologize. We should know by now that three guys sat on a sofa looking serious means an explanation is due. The video starts strong by stating from the beginning that they are sorry, they biffed it. Lim starts out with, “We messed up,” with Madej continuing,

We’ve been reading the things you’ve been saying, and we’re sorry for the way we handled this, as well as the way we communicated it. We understand where you’re coming from—and we’re making immediate changes.

They are opting not to leave YouTube for good, but rather have videos continue to release on the platform a month after they are released on their streaming service, meaning fans who cannot afford the $5.99 are not locked out of their content for good.

Shane Madej and Ryan Bergara in Ghost Files
(Watcher, YouTube)

They backtracked on many of the statements they made in their first video, stating that Patreon members will get a free subscription code to the Watcher streaming platform, and they will also refund anyone who signed up for the platform but would rather not now that they know the videos will eventually be free on YouTube. They also apologized for how they communicated their goodbye message, with Bergara stating 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.”

Lim also adds his own apology regarding the costs, with many of the comments having been aimed at Lim who has spoken of a fairly luxurious lifestyle in certain past videos, stating,

We also want to deeply apologize for our ignorance around the impact of the cost. We regret stating and implying that it’s a price that anybody can afford, and we fully acknowledge that it is not.

For me, an apology and a backtrack has reaffirmed some of my faith in the brand, if not all, though they did make the initial decision to leave a lot of us behind. It also shows the power of fan pressure on platforms like YouTube. Businesses on YouTube live and die by their fans—piss them off and the repercussions are business-ending. Though I have to wonder why they thought this was a good idea in the first place, I am comforted that they can see the harm their decision had on their fans and the good sense to make a decent apology and right their wrongs.

(featured image: Watcher, YouTube)


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Author
Laura Pollacco
Laura Pollacco (she/her) is a contributing writer here at The Mary Sue, having written for digital media since 2022 and has a keen interest in all things Marvel, Lord of the Rings, and anime. She has worked for various publications including We Got This Covered, but much of her work can be found gracing the pages of print and online publications in Japan, where she resides. Outside of writing she treads the boards as an actor, is a portrait and documentary photographer, and takes the little free time left to explore Japan.