Despite entertaining millions online through platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube, the online world of creators is not officially recognized by old school Hollywood. “There are Emmys, Golden Globes, and Oscars for the mainstream entertainment industry, but the people in this room are entertained by more people in the world than the people nominated for these other awards,” said Adam Rose, creator of TikTok with over 4.3 million followers.
The size of the creative economy is measured in the billions. YouTube announced that it paid out more than $30 billion to content creators between 2019 and 2021, and that some of the internet’s top stars earn tens of millions of dollars annually. MrBeast, the top-performing content creator, generated more than $54 million in 2021.
Sunday night, the star power was palpable. Fans pressed their faces and phones to the glass windows at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, hoping to catch a glimpse of the creators as they walked the red carpet.
said Sydney Raz, a designer whose life hacks have been blowing up for people in their 30s on TikTok and Instagram. “It’s great to have an award show about all the hard work and creativity we put online every day.”
The award show was produced by Tubefilter and Dick Clark Productions, and was broadcast exclusively on YouTube. Creator Airrack hosted the event and streamed it on his own channel. Rapper Young Gravy performed as the musical guest.
“Thank you all for coming tonight and leaving the ring lights at home,” he said, taking to the stage.
The talent honored at Streamys this year showed just how multi-platform the content creator ecosystem has become. “Queen of TikTok” Charli D’Amelio won Best Lifestyle Innovator. Twitch star Kai Cenat has won the player of the year award. YouTuber Markiplier took home the Longstanding Gamer Award as well as the award for Best Scripted Series. Hassan Baker, better known online as Hassan Abi, won Best News Maker.
Streamy Award for Best Featured Creator Most Desirable among Influencers. Stars who have won it in the past, including D’Amelio, Bella Poarch, MrBeast, Emma Chamberlain, and Liza Koshy, have become internet A-listers and this year, 24-year-old Ryan Trahan takes home the award.
Simone Giertz, a science YouTuber with 2.7 million subscribers, said this year’s Streamys felt more grounded than in years past. She explained that it was no longer seen as something just for teenagers. “She’s a lot older than she was two years ago,” she said. “Before, it was just a group of teenagers in their rooms taking selfies. I haven’t seen a single person take a selfie yet. We are all growing up.”
The TikTok stars of Retirement House, a content house whose members range in age from 70 to 85, are new to internet fame but have been sitting at the front, among influencers who are decades younger. Other content creators who took the stage on 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 YouTube stars since 2006.
Ben Reles, a former YouTube executive who has attended all of the Streamy Awards since the first ceremony in 2009, said he was most impressed by Rhett and Link, “After 15 years of creativity on YouTube, they still won Show of the Year and had the Streamys’ funniest moments.” (The duo made the audience rip off a bit by giving a long introduction to the short content award.)
Caleb Marshall, a fitness pop star like the Internet’s Richard Simmons, was in attendance with two backup dancers and fitness instructor Haley Jordan and Allison Floria. Marshall said the impact of the pandemic, along with the rise of short video, has led to changes in the industry. “The standards of beauty and production that were established over many years have collapsed,” he said.
And more people are following creators online than ever before. “People wanted connection, and they found it through us and through others like us,” said Floria.
An earlier version of this article mentioned that Kai Cenat won the award for Breakout Streamer. He has already won the award of the year. This version has been corrected.