Reaction channels on Youtube, their popularity and controversies

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.   

FBE controversy

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?