August 25, 2018
Hardly anyone over the age of 30 was watching, but millions logged-in for the biggest amateur boxing match of all time at the Manchester Arena on Saturday evening.
In a sign of how cultural power is shifting online, the battle was shown on YouTube rather than a major television channel.
YouTube stars KSI and Logan Paul draw in fight dubbed the biggest internet event in history
Young people holed themselves up in their bedrooms to watch the drama unfold on their phones and laptops, as televisions gathered dust and parents went about their business, oblivious.
In what is being billed as “the biggest internet event in history”, YouTube stars Logan Paul and KSI - who have 37 million subscribers between them but no professional boxing experience and don't work for traditional entertainment outlets - fought it out in the live-streamed event.
The fight, to the immediate disappointment of some fans online, was declared a majority draw, after both men failed to land heavy blows over six rounds.
YouTube stars KSI and Logan Paul draw in fight dubbed the biggest internet event in history
Speaking after the fight, KSI, said: "There’s only one thing to do, a re-match".
The showdown was expected to make at least £115m thanks to a £7.50 pay-per-view charge.
Some fans splurged hundreds on a ticket to see KSI (real name Olajide Olatunji), a 25-year-old Londoner who has rocketed to social media fame by recording himself playing video games tussle with the 23-year-old American “goof comedy” vlogger Paul.
Coral took more bets than in 90 per cent of yearly boxing bouts, following months of build-up, during which the pair traded blows like “your head is the size of a watermelon” and rapped insults at each other in “diss tracks”.
YouTube declined to comment on how much money it will generate from streaming the event.
Paul and KSI, who already have a combined net worth of more than £15 million, will also take an undisclosed cut.
It is not clear whether fans recording and streaming the match for free various on platforms and online channels - including on YouTube itself - will dent the number of paying viewers.
A rematch in the United States is already slated for 2019.
The fight reflects a dramatic shift in viewing habits, as young people move away from broadcast television and towards internet streaming, and Youtubers become household names to rival Hollywood stars amongst the young.
YouTube stars KSI and Logan Paul draw in fight dubbed the biggest internet event in history
The time 16-24 year-olds spend watching television each week plummeted by 12 per cent in 2017, while 16-34-year-olds now spend just under an hour a day watching YouTube, according to Ofcom.
Nine out of 10 people aged between 12 and 15 also now use the platform.
But critics have blasted the “grudge match” for setting a poor example to young people.
On Saturday afternoon, as a blacked-out car approached the back entrance of the arena, teenagers were seen encouraging each other to shout “she’s a ho” if Mr Paul’s girlfriend Chloe Bennet, stepped out.
In a press conference attended by the two fighters in July, KSI made lewd comments about Ms Bennet, and also called Mr Paul’s father “disgusting”.
“Some of the abuse and gutter level chat in the build-up was disgraceful,” said James Mildred from the charity CARE.
“It’s no exaggeration to say this event could well incite violence and poor behaviour as those watching copy what they see.”
Questions have also been raised about YouTube’s decision to broadcast an event featuring the platform’s most controversial star.
YouTube stars KSI and Logan Paul draw in fight dubbed the biggest internet event in history
Earlier this year, half-a-million people signed a petition to get Paul banned from YouTube after he posted a video featuring footage of a dead body, while exploring Aokigahara forest, a notorious suicide spot in Japan.
YouTube temporarily suspended Paul’s sponsored ads, and the star later posted a video apology and pledged $1m (£750,000) to suicide prevention charities.
He has since posted videos in which he tasers dead rats and parachutes naked out of an aeroplane.
“The companies making money out of this event are showing a complete lack of integrity and should cut all connections with him. YouTube’s association with Logan Paul is is hugely problematic,” said Chris McGovern, chairman of the pressure group, Campaign for Real Education.
KSI has also been heavily criticised in the past for making misogynistic comments about women in some of his videos.
The platform has come under equal scrutiny for its failure to tighten its flimsy age-restriction measures for the 18+ event, despite the YouTube pair’s legion of young fans.
“If the only check is a button that can be clicked on by anyone whatever their age then we don’t consider this to be adequate protection,” the chief executive of children’s charity Kidscape Lauren Seager-Smith told the Telegraph.
“What we are urging them to do is to find a balance between commercialism and child protection.”
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