In May 2018, Google rebranded what was once called YouTube Red as YouTube Premium. The service itself didn’t change much and still offers many of the same benefits. The one big addition is a new music streaming service called YouTube Music Premium (not the same thing as Google Play Music).
But the question remains: Is YouTube Premium actually worth paying for?
The truth is, YouTube Premium is a mixed bag. It’s really up to you and how much value you place on the available features. Here’s what you need to know to make an informed decision before subscribing to YouTube Premium.
1. It Costs $12 per Month
Strange enough, YouTube Premium’s $12-per-month price tag feels at once too much and yet too little. And when you compare it to other subscription-based media services—like Spotify, Amazon, and Netflix—the waters grow even murkier.
For example, Netflix costs $8 per month, Amazon Prime works out to about $10 per month, and Spotify Premium costs $10 per month. YouTube Premium costs more than each of these services, but does it offer as much as they do? Not really.
On the other hand, Twitch proves that thousands of users will voluntarily pledge $5 per month to individual channels all for an ad-free experience, the ability to chat while channels are in subscriber-only mode, and other light features with no tangible benefits.
So, keep the $12-per-month subscription cost in mind as we go through everything YouTube Premium offers. Only you can decide whether the asking price is reasonable. (Note that YouTube Premium comes with a 3-month free trial.)
2. No More Ads in YouTube Videos
YouTube Premium’s biggest selling point is that it removes advertisements from all videos on YouTube, whether those videos are YouTube Originals or not (more on this later). Unfortunately, $12 is a steep price to pay when ads can be blocked for free. (We don’t condone that.)
In fact, the growth of ad-blocking is one of the driving forces behind YouTube Premium. YouTube has long been known as the king of free videos, but those videos are expensive to host and stream. If people keep blocking ads, YouTube has no 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 Premium lets you do that in a way that lets the service stay in business.
3. Access to Original YouTube Originals
If you’re perfectly happy watching ads on YouTube, there are still a handful of other features that may justify the price of YouTube Premium for you. For example, the second major selling point is that part of the money goes toward the production of original content.
As of this writing, the following shows are the best YouTube Originals that have been released:
- Cobra Kai: A comedy-drama series based on The Karate Kid series of films. It follows the re-opening of the Cobra Kai dojo and the difficulties that Johnny Lawrence without his famed mentor in the picture.
- Escape the Night: A murder mystery that follows a group of guests who are invited to a party and then sent back in time, who then have to figure out how to escape with their lives in tact.
- Impulse: A drama series (based on a novel of the same name) that involves a teenaged girl who learns that she can teleport. There’s more to it than that, but let’s leave it unspoiled.
- Lazer Team: A feature-length film that successfully mashes together teen comedy with superheroes. It won’t be the best thing you watch this year, but it’s decent enough that you won’t feel like you’ve wasted your time.
And there are plenty of others to explore. Many series allow you to watch their first episodes for free, so head over to the YouTube Originals page and see if anything catches your eye.
But yes, these series and films are only available to those who have a YouTube Premium subscription. Are they on the same level as the original content put out by Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime? Not quite, but it’s clear that YouTube has an entirely different target audience in mind.
4. YouTube Premium Includes Google Play Music
There’s a lot to love about Google Play Music, including that it may just be the best mobile music player app available right now. For free, you can upload up to 50,000 songs and stream them on any Google Play Music-compatible device whenever you want.
But YouTube Premium includes a free All Access subscription to Google Play Music, which allows you to create custom radio stations, stream any song from the Google Play Music library on demand without ads, and download songs for offline playback.
Note that an All Access subscription to Google Play Music costs $10 per month. So, if you’re already paying for an All Access plan, you may as well switch over to YouTube Premium. It pretty much costs the same, but you get so many extra features.
5. Extras for YouTube Music, Gaming, and Kids
If you aren’t already using the YouTube Music mobile app, you should give it a try. It takes all of the music available on YouTube and puts it all at your fingertips, allowing you to stream music wherever you go.
The app is useful even as a free user, but it shines with a YouTube Premium account due to the extra features: no advertisements, keep playing music in the background even when you switch to another app, and download songs and playlists for offline playback. (But you can’t listen to downloaded songs outside of the app, which is where a tool like a YouTube playlist downloader comes in handy since YouTube uses so much data.)
With YouTube Premium, YouTube Music is a strong contender to the best music streaming mobile apps. As for the YouTube Gaming and YouTube Kids apps, YouTube Premium gets rid of all advertisements and allows downloads for offline playback.
6. YouTube Premium Won’t Impact Regular Users
What if you don’t buy into the whole YouTube Premium movement? How will it impact you as a regular viewer who just wants your daily dose of cat videos and all other nonsense that YouTube is so great at delivering?
Well, it won’t. Nothing about regular YouTube is changing.
You can think of YouTube Premium as an extension 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 Premium subscribers can watch Originals.
7. YouTube Premium Harms Content Creators
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
Even though nothing is directly changing with regular YouTube, the existence of YouTube Originals may have an indirect but real impact on content creators who don’t benefit from the revenues. See our thoughts on why YouTube Originals are bad for creators.
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 the YouTube Originals program (refusal meant removal of their videos) while lesser-known YouTube creators weren’t even notified about YouTube Originals.
It’s clear that YouTube doesn’t care about smaller channels who aren’t popular enough to be Originals partners. So, what will happen to them when the program ramps up and they’re left in the dust? By supporting YouTube Premium (which pays for YouTube Originals), you may be supporting the death of YouTube as we know it.
Should You Sign Up for YouTube Premium?
If ads don’t bother you, don’t get Premium. If you have no interest in Originals content, don’t get Premium. If you don’t use YouTube’s mobile apps, don’t get Premium. If you hate the direction YouTube is heading in, don’t support Premium.
YouTube Premium actually offers a lot for $12 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 Premium is if you’re already paying for an All Access subscription to Google Play Music. Otherwise, it’s a tough call, and I personally lean towards No. YouTube TV, on the other hand, may be the best cable replacement for cord cutters.