People jump on a car during riots sparked by Twitch streamer Kai Cenat, who announced a
People jump on a car during riots sparked by Twitch streamer Kai Cenat, who announced a "givaway" event, in New York's Union Square. Image Credit: AFP

The popular online video streamer Kai Cenat made headlines Friday when thousands of people overran Union Square Park in Manhattan in response to his announced giveaway of PlayStation 5 consoles. The gathering led to injuries and 66 arrests - including Cenat's.

The 21-year-old internet sensation who has made a lucrative business out of his attention-grabbing antics and collaborations with hip-hop artists Drake, 21 Savage and Lil Uzi Vert now faces legal scrutiny after he was charged with inciting to riot and unlawful assembly, among other violations.

The popular online video streamer Kai Cenat

Here's what to know about Cenat and his rise to prominence.

1. Kai Cenat's youth-oriented videos have made him the most popular streamer on Twitch . . .

Cenat is a Brooklyn-born, Bronx-raised content creator and video streamer who over the past five years has steadily built an online fan base in the millions on YouTube and Twitch, the Amazon-owned platform popular with online gamers.

Cenat, who now resides in Atlanta, began making videos on YouTube and Vine in 2018 as a high-schooler. He briefly studied business administration at State University of New York at Morrisville before dropping out to focus full-time on content creation.

Cenat is among the most-watched streaming stars on the internet, propelled largely by a youth audience that tunes in for rambunctious videos of pranks, chats or even to watch him sleep.

With 6.5 million Twitch followers, Cenat is the most-subscribed-to user on the platform, which includes tens of thousands of paid subscribers. On YouTube, he commands a following of more than 4 million subscribers.

What is Twitch
Twitch is a live streaming platform primarily focused on video game live streaming, esports, and creative content. It was launched in 2011 and quickly became one of the most popular platforms for gamers and content creators to share their live broadcasts with an audience. Viewers can watch streams in real-time and interact with the streamers through chat.

Here are some key features and aspects of Twitch:
Live Streaming: Twitch allows users to broadcast themselves playing video games, creating art, cooking, or engaging in other activities live for an audience to watch.
Gaming Community: Twitch has a strong gaming community, and many popular streamers attract large audiences, becoming online celebrities.
Chat Interaction: Viewers can participate in live chat while watching streams, enabling real-time interaction with the streamer and other viewers.
Emotes and Bits: Twitch has its own set of emotes and an internal virtual currency called "Bits." Viewers can use Bits to support streamers and unlock emotes.
Partner and Affiliate Programs: Twitch offers partnership and affiliate programs, allowing streamers to earn revenue through subscriptions, ads, and virtual currency support.
VODs (Video on Demand): Streamers can save their broadcasts as VODs, making them available for viewing even after the live broadcast has ended.
Creative Content: In addition to gaming, Twitch also features a "Creative" category where artists and creators can showcase their artwork, music, and other creative endeavors.
Esports and Events: Twitch is a popular platform for streaming esports events and tournaments, drawing a large number of viewers for competitive gaming.

2. . . . and Hollywood has taken note

In 2020, he joined the group Any Means Possible, or AMP, a collective of Gen-Z content creators and video streamers, but his popularity exploded in 2021 after he joined Twitch and built a reputation for energetic and increasingly star-studded streams that featured music artists such as Drake and Lil Baby.

As his subscriber base has grown, Cenat has drawn industry accolades: Rolling Stone named him one of the 20 most influential creators of 2023, and he was named streamer of the year at the 2022 Streamy Awards.

In February, United Talent Agency announced that it would represent Cenat, a move that came as the streamer was on his way to a record-breaking "subathon" - or 30-day uninterrupted live stream aimed at boosting his subscriptions. Cenat amassed more than 300,000 active Twitch subscribers that month, a record for the platform. During the first two weeks of February, Cenat's channel accounted for 2.5 percent of all hours watched on Twitch, UTA told the Hollywood Reporter.

3. His videos include internet challenges, parodies, video game streams and fan chats

Cenat's videos, which he started making as a teenager, began with the familiar mix of singing, dancing and internet challenges.

After teaming up with AMP, Cenat and his collaborators made videos that riffed on popular formulas such as filming themselves taking a lie-detector test and making pop culture parody videos of hit TV shows, including "Squid Games" and "Shark Tank."

On Twitch, a platform especially popular with video gamers and their audiences, Cenat streams himself playing "Grand Theft Auto" and "Fortnite." Increasingly, he'll draw subscribers with videos of himself chatting with fans on a live stream, or virtually bringing them along as he films himself trying yoga classes or going on a date through a girlfriend-rental experience in Japan.

4. Pranks have been a staple of his work

In an interview with Complex Magazine this year, Cenat described himself as a high-energy kid obsessed with YouTube who was always dancing - but also starting trouble at school.

"As a little kid I was bad, I'm not gonna lie - not to my mom though," Cenat told the magazine.

Most of his early YouTube videos show a high-energy Cenat singing, dancing, doing internet challenges and pulling pranks like ding dong ditch.

5. Cenat's arrest is the first time his antics have led to serious real-world charges

Before Cenat's arrest in Manhattan, the streamer's past controversies were on Twitch. He's been kicked off the platform several times for running afoul of its rules, including displaying explicit imagery, threatening other users and streaming while under the influence.