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What is YouTube Premium? Price, content, and more

YouTube Red is now YouTube Premium. What's changed, and should you subscribe?

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 presents 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 TV, the now-defunct YouTube 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 on iPhone.
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

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 video and YouTube Music streaming, offline playback, and access to exclusive, paywalled content. (Most of this content is created by well-known YouTubers and influencers.)

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?” Well, unfortunately, due to a recent price increase announcement, it’s now a little more expensive than it was at launch.

An individual plan is still just $12 per month after a one-month trial, but in October 2022, YouTube informed subscribers that the price of a family plan would increase from $18 per month to $23 per month starting the first billing cycle on or after November 21, 2022.

Family plans allow up to six accounts total, so it’s still a budget-friendly offering if you’re sharing it with friends or actual family members.

Students can also subscribe to YouTube Premium for $7, although they’ll need to verify their student status once a year.

If you’re interested in YouTube’s original programming, YouTube Originals are free to watch and are also ad-free for Premium subscribers. However, non-Premium subscribers can still watch YouTube Originals free with ads.

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.

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.

Ad-free viewing extends to any platform on which you use YouTube Premium, including the web, smartphones, Roku, or any other streaming device.

YouTube Originals

YouTube Originals is dead insofar as you shouldn’t expect to see any new content under that branding. The YouTube Originals channel still remains, however, with more than 6.7 million subscribers and a host of shows and various other videos.

YouTube Music Premium

YouTube Music with background play.

Originally, a YouTube Premium subscription got you access to Google Play Music, but Google has streamlined its music offerings down to just YouTube Music. With YouTube Premium, you’ll also get access to YouTube Music Premium (normally $10 per month). Like YouTube Premium, YouTube Music Premium offers ad-free playback, offline viewing, and background play on mobile.

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.

Is YouTube Premium worth it?

All streaming services have different values for different people. If you’re not a big YouTube consumer, you don’t need YouTube Premium — especially if you’re already happily subscribed to Spotify or Apple Music and don’t need the YouTube Music bonus.

But if you use YouTube religiously, have specific creators you love, and want to consume as much original content as you can, the $12-per-month price tag might be worth it. It’s about the same as most traditional streaming services, after all. Plus, you can cut down on the price by splitting a $23-per-month family plan with just one other person.

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