What the U.K. loved watching on YouTube: Top 10 trending stories in 2019

Roya Zeitoune, Sarah Clark / December 2019

With more snackable video content as a top digital marketing prediction for 2020 – it’s increasingly essential for marketers to know the cultural moments, the trends, the creators and content that have been driving views, sparking inspiration and conversation, across the U.K. and beyond.

We lift the top 10 trends from this year’s YouTube Rewind to showcase the videos that defined 2019.

1. Mr Beast - Team Trees

This one was the most-liked creator video of the year, one of the top trending videos of year, and one of the most-viewed YouTube channels of the year – MrBeast’s presence and impact has been impossible to ignore. And, ultimately, he used that influence to bring the YouTube community together – through ultra-charitable challenge videos; a collective endeavour to create the most liked video ever; and a massive creator collaboration #TeamTrees. Within the first week of launching the campaign with Mark Rober, over 3,800 videos were uploaded with the #TeamTrees tag, as creators around the world joined the effort to raise $20 million to plant 20 million trees.

#1 Most liked video. #6 Top trending video.

2. Sidemen

In 2019, the seven Sidemen demonstrated their omnipresence on YouTube, releasing a number of hugely popular videos across multiple channels, in a variety of formats. Their clever version of reality TV (Sidemen Tinder, Sidemen Speed Dating), modernisation of popular game shows (Sidemen “Wheel of Fortune”, “Countdown”, “The Weakest Link” ), and twist on the travel episode (Sidemen $20,000 vs. $200 Holiday, $10,000 vs. $100 Holiday) exemplified their ability to reinvent conventional formats for a digital-first audience. While they’ve grown as a group, they’ve also expanded their solo careers, building their individual subscriber bases and releasing original songs.

#3 Top trending Video. #6 Most liked video.

3. First We Feast

Since launching in 2015, First We Feast’s “Hot Ones” has asked everyone from John Boyega, Scarlett Johansson to Idris Elba “hot questions over even hotter wings” – and, in the process, transformed the traditional interview show. In its eighth season, the series hit a new high with its interview with Gordon Ramsay – who had been the show’s most requested guest – and became the channel’s most watched episode of all time and the U.K.’s #10 top trending video of the year.

#10 top trending video.

4. The David Beckham Statue Prank

With James Corden’s YouTube-first approach, he gave viewers a glimpse at the hilarious outcome when he pranked David Beckham at the unveiling of the star’s LA Galaxy statue. The comedian’s decision to embrace a popular YouTube format resulted in the #7 top trending video in the U.K., which has amassed more than 24 million views.

#7 Top trending video.

5. Stormzy

In 2019, Stormzy’s influence was evident on the charts and onstage. In addition to headlining Glastonbury, his video “Vossi Bop” received over 70 million views, becoming the #1 most viewed music video in the U.K. It has also demonstrated the broader cultural impact of grime as a musical genre; three of the top 10 music videos of the year in the U.K. were grime, and Stormzy appeared as a guest artist on the Ed Sheeran song “Take Me Back to London” – the #9 top music video too.

#1 Top music video. #9 Top music video

6. Brexit

As conversations about Brexit continued to play out across 2019, creators turned to YouTube to make sense of the confusion – and Still M.A.Y./Brexit was the most-shared video this year. Often, the videos they produced used humour and satire to express emotion and unpack a complicated issue for the broader public. Audiences welcomed the lighthearted approach – three of the videos were among the top 10 most shared in the U.K., with Still M.A.Y. becoming the #1 most shared video of the year.

#1 Most shared video.

7. Dan Howell - Basically I'm Gay

Within the span of three weeks in June, three top creators — Daniel Howell and Phil Lester of the iconic duo Dan & Phil, and Eugene Lee Yang of The Try Guys — uploaded coming out videos that made waves across YouTube. Howell and Yang’s videos were each viewed over 6 million times in their first day, while Lester’s has registered more than 3.9 million views since it launched. Howell’s went on to become the #8 most liked video in the U.K. and Yang’s was one of the top 25 most liked creator videos globally. The videos stood out for their high production value; Howell introduced elements of animation while Yang choreographed a cinematic music video – showing how ever-evolving modes of artistic expression can be used to tell personal stories online.

#8 Most liked video.

8. Billie Eilish

In early April, Eilish climbed to #1 on the U.K. Top Artists chart, landing eight tracks, including “Bad Guy” and “Bury A Friend,” on the U.S. Top Songs chart. It was “Bad Guy” that rose to the top, becoming one of the most viewed music videos of the year globally. The haunting beats and eerie visuals of Eilish’s music also inspired creativity across YouTube and showcased the untraditional pop star’s appeal in digital culture. For example, Seth Everman’s parody video, “How To Create Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy,” became the U.K.’s most shared music cover of the year.

#3 Top music video. #4 Most liked music video (globally).

9. No More Lies

When beauty creator James Charles used YouTube to address a video launched by Tati Westbrook, back in May, he got two things – unprecedented mainstream media coverage and the #1 U.S. top trending video of the year. The video highlights the not so often talked-about relationships between creators offline, and also shows just how mainstream YouTube creators have become. The story was picked up by top media outlets and news stations around the world.

#2 Top trending video.

10. Dianne Buswell

Until this year, Dianne Buswell might have been best known for her appearances on the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing. But this year, she explored being a creator on YouTube, and she’s found a new audience online. She vlogs on her personal channel, becoming the #1 most-subscribed new creator in the UK this year. And, along with her creator boyfriend Joe Sugg (whom she met on the set of Strictly), she also started an experimental cooking channel, In The Pan, which was also one of the fastest-growing channels this year.

#1 Most subscribed new creator.

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Digital trends in marketing in 2020