The most popular streaming platform on the planet now has a premium service. Here's everything you need to know about YouTube Red.
YouTube has long been one of the most popular websites on the Internet, letting users share their own videos as well as watch content from other creators around the globe. While there were no signs of YouTube's popularity waning, in October 2015 it launched a premium service called YouTube Red, which offers users an ad-free experience and access to exclusive content for a small monthly fee.
As part of the subscription, users get offline access to their favourite videos, as well as the ability to listen to videos with the screen off, making it a powerful music streaming service as well.
How much does YouTube Red cost?
YouTube Red originally launched in the US only for a monthly fee of US$10. When it arrived in Australia in 2016, its price translated to $11.99 per month, putting it in line with the likes of Netflix and Spotify.
You sign up using your Google account, which will automatically give you a one-month free trial for first-time Red customers, so you can try before you buy. Be warned though that you'll be automatically charged if you don't cancel before your trial period ends, so keep an eye on the date if you're not loving the service.
YouTube Red: What features are included?
Historically, YouTube has been an ad-supported platform that is free to use. So in order to entice people to pay a regular monthly fee, they needed to offer more than just an ad-free experience.
Fortunately, YouTube added a whole heap of features to YouTube Red to make it a much more exciting proposition. Here's what you get for your $11.99 each month:
For some people, this is going to be the most useful benefit of YouTube Red. One of the most frustrating elements of the YouTube experience is clicking play on a 20-second cat video and having to sit through a non-skippable 30-second TV commercial about something you don't care about. YouTube Red does away with the ads, giving you direct access to the best content.
There are a few exceptions, like paid channels or TV and movie purchases or rentals, but for the bulk of YouTube's billions of videos, YouTube Red makes it an ad-free experience.
Mobile users and frequent travellers will appreciate the ability to download a series of YouTube videos to watch offline. For a start, it gives you the ability to watch in situations where an Internet connection is impossible (like on a plane), as well as saving your precious mobile data for more important things.
Parents will also appreciate the fact that YouTube Red integrates with the YouTube Kids app (more on that below) which means you'll be able to fill your phone or iPad with episodes of Peppa Pig or kids' yoga classes for repetitive viewing.
YouTube not only made sharing videos easy, it also spawned a new way for creative video makers to find massive audiences, and make large amounts of money doing so. As part of YouTube Red, many of the most popular YouTubers have created original content that is only available to subscribers.
While the list of Red originals is constantly growing, here's some of the shows that helped launch the service.
|360 Project from MatPat of Game Theory||Pop culture theorist, MatPat, uses virtual reality to explore the real-world science behind the video games we play.||MatPat|
|A Trip to Unicorn Island||A feature-length movie that follows Lilly Singh on a tour across 26 cities.||Astronauts Wanted and Lilly Singh|
|I am Tobuscus||A scripted comedy that follows a self-centred web celebrity in his pursuit for universal acclaim.||Toby Turner|
|Fight of the Living Dead||A social experiment/reality show that takes YouTube stars and places them in terrifying zombie apocalypse simulations.||Alpine Labs|
|Lazer Team||A feature-length scripted comedy where four no-hopers unwittingly find themselves aboard an alien ship fighting a battle to save Earth.||Rooster Teeth and Fullscreen Films|
|Scare PewDiePie||Skybound Entertainment (The Walking Dead) produces this reality-adventure series, where YouTube celebrity PewDiePie is put in horrifying situations straight out of the video games he plays.||PewDiePie|
|Sing It!||Another scripted comedy that parodies talent shows like American Idol, X Factor etc.||Fine Brothers Entertainment|
|Single by 30||This romantic dramedy features Harry Shum Jr (Glee) and musician Kina Grannis who uphold a high-school promise to marry each other if they’re both still single at 30.||Harry Shum Jr and Kina Grannis|
|Untitled Collegehumor project||By the folks over at Collegehumor, this anthology series is a black comedy that analyses ridiculous Internet culture.||Collegehumor|
|Untitled Joey Graceffa project||In this “murder mystery” reality series hosted by Joey Graceffa, YouTube stars must form alliances to solve a new mystery each episode.||Joey Graceffa|
Play videos with the screen off
With its massive library of music videos, it's no surprise that YouTube is also one of the most popular music streaming platforms around, though for standard users wanting to listen to music through YouTube on a mobile device, watching the video is mandatory – the screen has to remain on and you can't multitask with other apps.
YouTube Red allows users to listen to music in the background, either by turning off the screen or by leaving the music running while browsing another app. This functionality, when coupled with the ad-free playback environment, makes it a particularly strong music streaming service.
Bundled Google Music subscription
If the ability to play back music sounds good to you, you'll be happy to hear that signing up to a YouTube Red subscription means you get full access to Google Play Music's subscription service as well. And that goes both ways, so Play Music subscribers can enjoy the benefits of YouTube Red for no additional cost.
That includes access to over 35 million songs, the ability to upload 50,000 of your own tracks and Google Play Music's radio functionality.
Integration with the YouTube Kids, YouTube Gaming and YouTube Music apps
As we've already alluded to, YouTube Red works across all the YouTube apps, so gamers, music lovers and parents with kids will be able to access content ad-free via those applications, as well as download clips for offline viewing.
What devices does YouTube Red support?
YouTube Red works on a large number of YouTube compatible devices, including mobiles, TVs and game consoles.
- YouTube mobile apps
- Android TV
- Apple TV
- Xbox 360
- Xbox One
- PlayStation 3
- PlayStation 4
- Wii U
- Roku (LT, 1, 2, 2 HD, 2 XD, 2 XS, 3, Streaming Stick, Roku TV)
- Certain Smart TVs newer than 2012
What if I don't want YouTube Red?
The good news is that YouTube Red is an entirely optional premium service. For those unwilling to pay the $11.99 per month, YouTube's traditional ad-supported platform is still available to everyone. There is some premium content that you won't be able to access, but just as with other streaming video platforms like Netflix and Stan, the decision to subscribe to get access to those programs depends on your personal taste and whether you can justify the expense to watch them.
So why would I want YouTube Red? Is it worth it?
There are two big questions you need to ask yourself before signing up for YouTube Red. The first is whether you think getting an ad-free YouTube service is worth the price. The second is whether you want to watch any of that exclusive YouTube Red content. If either of those questions made you answer yes, then YouTube Red's $11.99 monthly fee should be a no-brainer.
The other big reason to sign up to YouTube Red is the bundled subscription to Google Play Music. By itself, Play Music may not be your service of choice when choosing between the likes of Spotify or Beats or Apple Music, but if suddenly you get ad-free YouTube videos and the ability to watch videos offline? That's a significant perk that no other music streaming service comes close to matching.
A short history of YouTube
Of course, there's more to YouTube than just YouTube Red. It's worth taking the time to understand the origins of one of the Internet's most popular sites.
YouTube was founded in 2005 by three young friends who had met working for PayPal. Headquartered above a pizzeria and Japanese restaurant, the three friends worked on developing the site using US$3.5 million that they obtained through a venture firm, Sequoia Capital.
The very first video uploaded to YouTube was on 23 April 2005. Titled "Me at the Zoo", it featured one of the co-founders at the San Diego Zoo. By the summer of 2006, YouTube had become one of the fastest growing sites on the Internet, and Sequoia Capital, along with Artis Capital, invested an additional $8 million in the start-up. In July of that year, 65,000 new videos were being shared each day, and 100 million were being viewed. Nielsen ratings estimated that an average of 20 million people were visiting the site each month, the majority of those being between the ages of 12 and 17.
In November of the same year, Google purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion. As a result of the sale, founder Chad Hurley received $395 million, Steve Chen $326 million and Jawed Karim $64 million. Sequoia Capital, which had invested a total of $9 million into the fledgling company, received $516 million for that leap of faith, and Artis Capital got $85 million for their $3 million investment. The video sharing site had grown in popularity so quickly that Time magazine named it the coveted "Person of the Year" for 2006, featuring the screen and a large mirror.
The growth of YouTube continued, with experts estimating that viewers and contributors to YouTube consumed as much bandwidth in 2007 as the entire Internet had in 2000. As of April 2014, YouTube had become the third most visited site on the Internet, with Google and Facebook holding the first and second positions.
Today, YouTube has over a billion active users, with local versions in 88 countries around the world. Every day, people watch hundreds of millions of hours of YouTube videos and generate billions of views for the service.
YouTube frequently asked questions
Q: Do you have to register as a user to view YouTube videos?
A: No, anyone can view any video that has been uploaded to YouTube.
Q: What are registered users?
A: A registered user has created an account with YouTube and been given a customisable home page. This can be used to market favourites and save videos to be watched later. They are also able to create a channel where they can post their own videos .
Q: Is any content restricted from being uploaded to YouTube?
A: There are community guidelines that YouTube expects its registered users to follow. These include not posting videos that contain pornography or sex acts, hate speech or gratuitous violence. Also prohibited are depictions of drug abuse, underage drinking, animal abuse or copyright violation.
Q: How does YouTube enforce these guidelines?
A: There is no review process before a video is uploaded to YouTube, but other viewers can report content that is inappropriate to have it removed.
Q: Is there an age restriction for using YouTube?
A: Technically a user must be at least 13 years of age to register for a YouTube account, but as there is no age verification process it is easy to falsify the date of birth. There is a safety mode that will hide all comments and filter objectionable videos for a parent who wants to control what their child is exposed to.
Q: Are all videos posted on YouTube public?
A: Yes, by default any video uploaded to YouTube is public, but its contributor may mark it as being private. These will only be available to up to 50 invited YouTube users. There is also an unlisted option which will make the video available only to those who have the URL, and not shown during a search of YouTube.
Q: What are channels?
A: YouTube channels are individual users’ personal forums to show off their videos.
Q: What are channel subscriptions?
A: A viewer can subscribe to obtain updates from a favourite channel.
Q: Does watching YouTube affect my Internet usage?
A: Yes, YouTube is being accessed over the Internet, making its use metered.
Q: Is there a difference in the content being shown in the US and what Australians can see with YouTube?
A: Yes, especially in terms of music videos. Since these are usually protected by copyright laws, they will not be available to Australian users.
Q: Does it cost any money to use YouTube?
A: No, there is no charge for signing up as a registered user with YouTube and all of the videos shown are free. There is an option for a user to add a small fee to view their videos, but this has not been well received and the majority of users still watch videos for free.