The popularity of reaction channels on Youtube is high, and has been for several years. I myself follow quite a lot of reaction channels. A simple definition of a reaction video is a video or clip of someone reacting to something. These channels react to anything from movies, tv shows, other Youtube videos, reddit posts or TikToks. Are these videos just a fun way of seeing your favorite content through another person’s perspective, or are these channels just an easy form of entertainment, bordering on stealing content or views?
Why so popular?
The steady popularity of reaction videos, that are seemingly embraced by the Youtube algorithm, has continued for several years now. There are multiple reasons that people like these kind of channels and videos. Kritika Bansal described in an article on Vidooly that the viewer gets the best of both worlds: the subject and the experience in one video. Watching people experience a piece of media that you love can be really entertaining, especially if the content is discussed after. Hearing people’s opinions on content you also enjoy can be pleasant, especially if you share those opinions.
One of the biggest channels that focuses (almost) solely on making reaction videos is Fine Bros Entertainment (FBE), with their Youtube channel REACT. They have been making videos for over eleven years and they currently have 20,2 million subscribers. They have different series like ‘kids react’, ‘teens react’, ‘youtubers react’ and so on. They ran into a bit of controversy, when in 2015 they announced they would license and trademark their React series, and the term ‘react’ itself. Youtubers were supposed to opt for the FBE’s React World license and then divert 20% of their ad revenue. Because react was – and is – a popular term that Youtubers used in their video content, there was a lot of backlash when this was announced. The Fine Bros eventually apologized and didn’t go through with the attempt to trademark ‘react’. Even though they’ve had some controversy, the videos that FBE produces do more than just react to the video, they follow it up with a discussion of the content.
A lot criticism of reaction channels and videos comes from the fact that there are also channels out there that almost ‘steal’ the content of other creators. When people react to movies or tv shows, they often show a limited selection of scenes or cut out the sound to avoid copyright claims. But with reactions to Youtube videos, this is a bit trickier. A popular example from the past is the channel of Jinx, who would watch videos in their entirety without a lot of expressive reactions. A criticism of these kind of videos was that people would go straight to the reaction channel instead of the original creator. Criticisms like these have in turn been expressed by other Youtube creators such as I Hate Everything:
It’s difficult to separate when true transformative content is being created and a reaction channel is truly adding something and creating new content. Do you watch a lot of reaction channels and what do you think about this type of content?
While I do not watch any Reaction Videos very rarely, I did watch them quite a lot when a few years ago. Often I would watch clips of YouTubers reacting to new Music Videos released by my favorite artists, or reactions to new trailers of video games or stories of games.
Reading your blogpost, it really made me wonder what makes these reaction videos so appealing. I believe that a major reason could be that people enjoy seeing others react to something they like. Most of the times it gives us a ‘satisfying’ feeling, knowing that someone out there feels exactly the same as you, including most other people who are watching the video.
Sometimes it is just interesting to see what other people think and it can be fun, which is the case in most reaction videos. The most recent reaction video I have seen on Facebook was about children (living in UK) trying and reacting to Southeast Asian food. I just loved seeing the different faces the kids made and when they explained in their own words what the foods tasted like.
i dont follow or engage with any purely reaction content at this point, however, i remember enjoying channels like that a while ago. i think it sort of acted as almost a guide for me in a way. it can help gauge an ‘appropriate’ reaction but also provide comfort. Reaction content can be greatly transformative and Ethan and Hila proved in their lawsuit a couple years back. They argued that one of their specific videos was creative enough not to knowingly and blatantly steal content. the world of reaction channels is truly interesting. 😀
I remember loving channels like this when I was younger! Although the content is taken from another creator, new content is being created through the reactions of those featured in the video. While a lot of these reaction videos gain more views than the original content itself, technically the viewers are coming to watch the reactors, right? Personally, it did not matter for me what video was being played, I watched the reaction videos for certain people who were featured in that week’s episode.
Additionally, like another comment mentioned above, these videos were so satisfying to watch because they evoke a comforting feeling. Knowing someone else reacted in a similar way as you did to a video creates a connection between the video and the viewer. Two people who do not know each other, felt the same way watching a funny or weird video.
Overall great blog and thank you for resurfacing this childhood memory of mine 🙂
Very interesting discussion. I don’t really know how to feel about reaction Youtubers. Without a doubt, reaction videos are a way of gaining viewers using other people’s content. But it is interesting to ask yourself: are the original creators worse off when their content is being reacted to? On the one hand you could say that people that watch the reaction video watch the video instead of the original one, thus the original video loses viewers. But on the other hand, reaction videos also bring a lot of attention to the original video, causing more views on the original. Maybe the original creator should get the right to decide if he wants his video to be used in reaction videos.
I personally really like to watch reaction videos, I always have. I watched the FBE channel with their react series videos when I was younger. Nowadays, I only watch a few certain reaction Youtubers. These YouTubers are – in my opinion – very funny and make the content they show in a way more humorous with their reactions. I also can often relate to their reactions, which gives this comforting feeling, as others said before in the comments. The videos are easy to watch and, for the most time, have this ‘feel good’ aspect to them. I don’t think it is wrong for reaction channels to react to others’ content that is not from themselves, as long as they do it respectfully.
This is definitely a controversial topic. I think it looks like in this case you can either love such channels or hate them and there is nothing in between (at least based on my experience). Personally, I hate them ahah. I really don’t get why anyone would be interested in other people’s reactions to different videos. Not meaning to offend anyone, but for me it looks kind of stupid. There is really no useful information there but still people keep recording them and millions of users keep watching them.
I’m sorry if it sounded rude! This phenomenon is just unbelievable for me.