In October 2015, YouTube announced a brand new subscription service called YouTube Red, and promptly received a lot of backlash from viewers and content creators alike. But YouTube hasn’t backed down from its plans — in fact, it’s moving full steam ahead — so it’s time to ask…
Is YouTube Red actually worth paying for?
The truth is, YouTube Red is a mixed bag. For some, it’s the best thing since sliced bread. For others, it has the potential to ruin one’s channel and ambitions. And for the rest, it won’t have any noticeable effect at all. Here’s what you need to know to make an informed decision before subscribing.
1. It Costs $10 Per Month
The weird thing about YouTube Red is that the $10 per month price tag simultaneously feels like too much yet too little. And when you start comparing it to other subscription-based media services, the waters grow even murkier.
For example, look at the big names currently dominating the market: Netflix costs $8 per month, Amazon Prime works out to around $8.25 per month, and Spotify Premium costs $10 per month. YouTube Red is in the same ballpark, but does it offer as much as these services do? Not really.
However, at the same time, you can point to Twitch, where thousands of users not only voluntarily pledge $5 per month to individual channels, but also send in huge one-time donations that can exceed hundreds of dollars — all for an ad-free experience, the ability to chat in subscriber-only mode, and other light features like that.
Keep the $10 subscription cost in mind as we go through everything YouTube Red offers. Only you can decide whether that’s a reasonable asking price. (Note that YouTube Red comes with a 30-day free trial!)
2. No More Ads in YouTube Videos
YouTube Red’s biggest selling point is that it removes advertisements from all videos on YouTube, whether those videos are part of the YouTube Red program or not (more on this later). Unfortunately, $10 is a steep price to pay when ads can easily be blocked for free. (NB: We don’t condone that).
In fact, the growing prevalence of ad-blocking is one of the driving forces behind YouTube Red. While YouTube has long been known as the king of free videos, those videos are expensive to host and stream — and if people keep blocking ads, that leaves YouTube little choice but to pursue alternative revenue models.
We get it. Advertisements are annoying, especially when you have to sit through a one-minute ad just to watch a 30-second YouTube clip. Want to get rid of them? YouTube Red lets you do that in a way that lets the service stay in business.
3. Access to Original YouTube Content
If you’re perfectly happy watching ads on YouTube, there are still a handful of other features that may justify the price of YouTube Red for you. For example, the second major selling point is that part of the money will go towards the production of original content.
As of this writing, the following shows are definitely in development and are slated to be released at some point in 2016:
- Scare PewDiePie: A reality show where famous game streamer PewDiePie will be placed in live scenarios inspired by various horror games.
- Fight of the Living Dead: A reality show where popular YouTube personalities are put in a realistic zombie apocalypse scenario and must survive.
- Sing It!: A scripted comedy that parodies reality singing competitions.
- I Am Tobuscus: A scripted comedy that parodies the life of a YouTube creator searching for success.
- Lazer Team: A feature-length film that involves four losers who discover an alien ship with mysterious cargo.
- A Trip to Unicorn Island: A feature-length film that explores the life of YouTube personality, Lilly Singh.
- Single by 30: A romance drama series that involves two high school friends who promised to marry each other if they were both single at 30.
As you might expect, these series and films will only be available to those who have a YouTube Red subscription — and as you might be able to tell, most of these productions involve YouTube stars. If you aren’t already “tapped into” YouTube, you probably won’t care about YouTube’s original content.
However, it’s possible that YouTube may start streaming other films and TV series, establishing themselves as a competitor to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. We should add that there’s no solid news on this yet, but we wouldn’t discount the possibility of it happening.
4. Access to Google Play Music
There’s a lot to love about Google Play Music, including the fact that it may just be the best mobile music player available today. For free, you can upload up to 50,000 songs and stream them whenever you want from any device that supports it.
But with a YouTube Red subscription, you also get an All Access subscription to Google Play Music, which allows you to create custom radio stations, to stream any song from the Google Play Music library on demand without any ads, and to download songs for offline playback.
And the best part about this is that the All Access subscription to Google Play Music costs $10 per month, so if you already have an All Access account, you may as well switch over to YouTube Red. It costs exactly the same, but you get so many more features.
5. Extra Features in YouTube Mobile Apps
If you haven’t been using the YouTube Music mobile app, you really should give it a try. In short, it takes all of the music available on YouTube and makes it easy for you to find and stream them wherever you go. (I know I’m not the only one who uses YouTube as my main music player!)
However, while the app is useful even as a free user, it really shines when you have a YouTube Red account due to the extra features: there are no advertisements, you can play songs only with audio and not video (to save on bandwidth), you can download songs for offline playback (up to 30 days at a time per song), and you can enjoy background playback.
With YouTube Red, YouTube Music is a strong contender when it comes to the best music streaming mobile apps. As for the YouTube Gaming mobile app, there aren’t any special features beyond the removal of all advertisements. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if YouTube starts including Red features in more of its apps.
6. It Won’t Impact Regular Viewers
What if you don’t buy into this whole YouTube Red movement? How will it impact you as a regular viewer who just wants your daily dose of cat videos and all the other (highly watchable) nonsense that YouTube is so great at delivering?
Well, it won’t. Nothing about regular YouTube is changing.
You can think of YouTube Red as an extension of or addition to “regular” YouTube. YouTube will stay as it is in ad-supported form, but there will now be a separate VIP section (if you will) where Red subscribers can watch premium content.
7. Will It Harm Content Creators
Even though nothing is directly changing with regular YouTube, the existence of the YouTube Red program may have an indirect but real impact on content creators who are not part of the Red program. At the very least, non-Red videos will be seen as “lesser”, as well as a host of other problems.
Sounds to me like YouTube Red just benefits the top 1% of content creators
YouTube, the American government is not a good role model
— Chris Hubbard (@chrisconsiders) October 21, 2015
But the real problem is that YouTube is trying to take control of something that has traditionally been user-generated. There are stories of popular YouTube creators who were “forced” into taking part in YouTube Red (refusal meant removal of their videos) while lesser-known YouTube creators weren’t even notified about YouTube Red until the announcement itself.
It’s clear that YouTube doesn’t really care about the millions of smaller channels that aren’t popular enough to be Red partners. So, what will happen to them when the Red program ramps up and they’re left in the dust? By supporting YouTube Red, you may be supporting the death of YouTube as we know it.
So, Should You Sign Up for It?
If ads don’t bother you, don’t get Red. If you have no interest in the original content, don’t get Red. If you don’t use YouTube’s mobile apps, don’t get Red. If you hate the direction YouTube is heading in, don’t support Red.
Overall, you actually get a lot for $10 per month, but it’s only worth it if you’re going to use all of those features. The only situation where I can solidly say YES to YouTube Red is if you already have an All Access subscription to Google Play Music. Otherwise, it’s a tough call, and I personally lean towards No.
What do you think of YouTube Red? Which features are great and which ones do you think are extraneous? Does the original content interest you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!