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What is YouTube’s subscription streaming service, YouTube Premium?

With so many different apps, services, and streaming platforms out there, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which ones are right for you. And navigating YouTube’s latest suite of products present a similar issue. The Google-run video-hosting website, launched in 2005, is massively popular, with more than 400 hours of video uploaded every minute. But lately, the service’s many expansions in the search for more revenue have made things a bit convoluted.

In the past few years, we’ve seen the launch of YouTube Music, YouTube TVYouTube Go, and the one you’ve probably heard about most lately, YouTube Premium. If you’re wondering what exactly that means, read on, as we explain what YouTube Premium is, how much it costs, and whether it’s right for you.

What is YouTube Premium?

YouTube Premium is a subscription-based service (it debuted as “Music Key” in 2014 and, as with many Google services, was eventually rebranded to YouTube Red before arriving at its current name), that adds several features to the basic YouTube experience. Unlike Spotify or Apple Music, it’s not a dedicated music streaming platform. Rather, it’s a multifaceted offering that boasts a number of small benefits to improve your YouTube experience, including ad-free YouTube streaming. And that’s just for starters.

How much does YouTube Premium cost?

Considering the vast majority of YouTube content is free, the first thing that likely came into your mind was “OK, so how much does it cost?” The answer to that one is simple: A YouTube Premium subscription runs $12 per month. You can also sign up for a family plan, which costs $18 a month and lets you share access with five other family members. Students can subscribe to YouTube Premium for $7, although they’ll need to verify their student status once a year.

Previously, YouTube Red cost $10, unless you subscribed via the iOS App Store, in which case it was $13. So far it seems that Google has opted to keep the cost the same, so at least for the time being, Apple users now pay the same amount that anyone else pays, making this a discount compared to YouTube Red.

If you’re interested in YouTube’s original programming, you’ll also have another, cheaper option very soon. In 2020, Google plans to make its YouTube Originals free to watch, although you’ll have to deal with advertisements if you take that route. For now, Google claims that the ad-free subscription plan and the free, ad-supported models will run concurrently, although some industry analysts speculate that the monthly subscription service won’t last too much longer.

What do you get with YouTube Premium?

As mentioned, YouTube Premium comes with a slew of benefits. We’ll run them down to simplify things for you.

YouTube Originals

If you pony up for Premium, you’ll get access to the full library of YouTube Original content. Right now, the list is relatively short. Many of the series are productions by big-name YouTubers like Poppy, PewDiePie, and the Paul brothers. So far, the most popular (and acclaimed) series is Cobra Kai, a sequel to The Karate Kid.

Google claims that there’s more exclusive programming on the way, although recent reports suggest that YouTube might be ramping down its original content initiatives. Google says otherwise, of course, but the tech giant did cancel two high-profile YouTube Originals, Origin and Overthinking With Kat and June, so it looks like the rumors have some merit. We’ll have to wait and see.

Ad-free viewing

As mentioned above, a YouTube Premium subscription removes all advertisements from YouTube. This includes both banner ads and video ads (whether you’re in a desktop browser or on mobile) and extends to the YouTube Music app. For many, the default ad load isn’t too heavy, but YouTube brass has let on that those who “use YouTube like a paid music service” might encounter increased ad density.

Google Play Music

What is YouTube’s subscription streaming service, YouTube Premium?

This is where things get a little tricky, though it’s relatively simple if you’re starting from scratch. YouTube Premium includes YouTube Music Premium, which we’ll get to below, but it also includes Google Play Music, which will eventually be replaced by YouTube Music. If you’re a longtime Play Music listener, the service is still available, though currently, the plan is to transition Play Music listeners over to YouTube Music sometime in 2019. For the time being, Google Play Music’s library of 30 million tracks is still available.

YouTube Music Premium

Just like Google Play Music, a Premium subscription will also net you access to YouTube Music Premium, which offers background play on mobile, offline viewing, and ad-free playback (see below). For now, YouTube Music doesn’t have podcasts.

Background play on mobile

With a YouTube Premium subscription, you can lock your phone (or switch to a different app) and videos will continue to play in the background. This is a nice feature for listening to podcasts and the like, or if you just want to listen to a song, but can’t find it on any other platform. It works in the YouTube app and the YouTube Music app.

Offline viewing

You can download videos (and whole playlists) for offline viewing with YouTube Premium. A very useful feature for plane flights (or, really, any time you want to save mobile data or expect to have poor service). You will need to have a fair bit of free space on your phone, but downloading songs via YouTube Music instead of the default YouTube app mitigates this to a degree.

So, should you get it?

That depends. If you find yourself happily subscribed to Spotify or Apple Music (or, less likely, Tidal or Deezer), you probably don’t need YouTube Premium. But if you use YouTube religiously, if you’re a fan of Cobra Kai or any of the other Premium series and you don’t want to wait for the free ad-supported option, and if you can overlook some of Google Play Music’s minor deficiencies, it’s well worth the price of admission.

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