LOS ANGELES — The online creator world has boomed during the pandemic. And on Sunday night, its stars gathered at the Beverly Hilton for the 2022 Streamy Awards, the creator economy’s premiere awards show.
Despite entertaining millions online through platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Twitch and YouTube, the online creator world is not formally recognized by old-school Hollywood. “There’s the Emmys, Golden Globes and Oscars for the mainstream entertainment industry,” said Adam Rose, a TikTok creator with more than 4.3 million followers, “but the people in this room are entertaining more people in the world than the people nominated for those other awards.”
The size of the creator economy is measured in the billions. YouTube announced that it paid out more than $30 billion to creators between 2019 and 2021, and some of the top internet stars earn tens of millions of dollars a year. MrBeast, a top-performing content creator, earned more than $54 million in 2021.
On Sunday night, the star power was palpable. Fans pressed their faces and phones against the glass windows at the Beverly Hilton, hoping to catch a glimpse of the creators as they walked the red carpet.
“You have TikTokers, YouTubers, Snapchat original creators, Instagrammers — it’s an insanely wide swath of platforms that make or break entertainment on the internet,” said Sidney Raz, a creator whose life hacks for people in their 30s have blown up on TikTok and Instagram. “It’s great to have an award show about all the hard work and creativity we put into the internet each day.”
The award show was produced by Tubefilter and Dick Clark Productions, and exclusively broadcast on YouTube. Content creator Airrack hosted the event and streamed it on his own channel. The rapper Yung Gravy performed as musical guest.
“Thank you all for coming tonight and leaving your ring lights at home,” he said as he took the stage.
The talent honored at this year’s Streamys showed how multiplatform the creator ecosystem has become. “Queen of TikTok” Charli D’Amelio won the award for best lifestyle creator. Twitch star Kai Cenat won the streamer of the year award. YouTuber Markiplier took home the long-standing gamer award in addition to the award for best scripted series. Hasan Piker, known online as HasanAbi, won for best news creator.
The Streamy award for the best breakout creator is coveted among influencers. Stars who have won it in the past, including D’Amelio, Bella Poarch, MrBeast, Emma Chamberlain and Liza Koshy, have gone on to become internet A-listers and this year, 24-year-old Ryan Trahan took home the prize.
Trahan has made a name for himself by racking up tens of millions of views for things like inviting 100 celebrities to his birthday party, spending 50 hours in darkness and attempting to trade a penny for a house in less than a week.
Simone Giertz, a science YouTuber with 2.7 million subscribers, said this year’s Streamys felt more established than in years past. It’s no longer viewed as something just for teens, she explained. “It’s a lot more grown up than a couple years ago,” she said. “Before, it was just a bunch of teens in their rooms taking selfies. I haven’t seen a single person take a selfie yet. We’re all growing up.”
The TikTok stars of the Retirement House, a content house whose members are ages 70 to 85, are new to internet fame but were seated up front, among influencers decades younger. Other creators who took the stage Sunday night spent their formative years in the public eye. Rhett James McLaughlin and Charles Lincoln “Link” Neal, a content creator duo known professionally as Rhett & Link, are both in their mid-40s but have been stars on YouTube since 2006.
Ben Relles, a former YouTube executive who has attended every Streamy Awards since the first one in 2009, said he was most impressed with Rhett and Link, “who, after 15 years of creativity on YouTube, are still winning show of the year and had the Streamys’ funniest moment.” (The duo made the audience crack up with a bit about doing a long-form introduction to the short-form content award.)
Caleb Marshall, a fitness pop star who is like the Richard Simmons of the internet, was in attendance with his two backup dancers and fitness instructors Haley Jordan and Allison Florea. Marshall said the impact of the pandemic, combined with the rise of short-form video, led to changes in the industry. “The beauty and production standards that were built up over so many years have been broken down,” he said.
And more people than ever are tuning into creators online. “People wanted connection,” Florea said, “and they found it through us and others like us.”
An earlier version of this article said that Kai Cenat won the breakout streamer award. He actually won streamer of the year. This version has been corrected.