Google rolled out a new paid subscription for its free YouTube service known as YouTube Red in November of 2015. With the service, subscribers get to watch all content on YouTube with no advertisements, some exclusive programming only for subscribers and the existing Google Music program. With these features, is it worth the $10 a month for a program that’s free? I subscribed back in November at the program’s inception with a three-month trial, and I have been using it ever since.
The first question to ask is how much you wanted to watch YouTube? Personally, a majority of my media consumption comes from YouTube. I watch several channels, such as the morning show “Good Mythical Morning” and news program “The Young Turks,” every single day. So the ad-free content is very convenient. Anyone who has watched long-form content on YouTube has found out that there are not only ads at the beginning and end of the videos, but also in the middle as well. Unlike on television, where the programs are designed around the advertisements, YouTube ads can jarringly pop up in the middle of a sentence or halfway through a word. Obviously, without ads, there are no interruptions while watching content. YouTube even takes off the banner and margin ads on the page, so you get a clean viewing experience similar to what you would find on Netflix. That alone may be worth the $10 a month for avid viewers. But even for only a casual viewer, that most likely is going to be the draw of YouTube Red.
A secondary, but still notable feature of YouTube Red, is the ability to play any YouTube video in the background while using a device. For example, if I want to listen to one of my favorite podcasts on YouTube, “Dude Soup,” by the channel Funhaus, then I don’t have to use the extra data to stream the video. Instead, I can just listen to the audio in the car or play a game on my device. While that certainly won’t be the deciding factor in whether to purchase this program, I do find myself using it all the time if I get a text to answer in the middle of a video or walk to class listening to content without my nose down in my screen.
The YouTube Red original content isn’t anything to write home about. Each of the programs is made by creators who already have popularity on YouTube and want to try their hand at a new form or more high-production-value content. I watched all the way through the show “Scare Pewdiepie,” a live-action horror/prank show staring the most-subscribed to YouTuber Felix Kjellberg, or as his fans know him Pewdiepie. Anyone familiar with his content knows exactly what to expect. For those who don’t, it mostly contains a Swedish man running and yelling obscenities in Swedish. The show does a good job of incorporating popular video games, clever set design, and cameos from other YouTubers, such as Mark Fischbach (Markiplier). As a fan of Pewdiepie, I can say that the program was an enjoyable watch, but nothing that is going to get an Emmy nomination. If you aren’t a fan of Pewdiepie, I’m not sure this program is for you.
The second YouTube Red original that I tried out is the Rooster Teeth original movie “Laser Team.” I thought much the same about it. If you are a fan of Rooster Teeth or just like sci-fi B movies, then you will like the movie for what it is.
Lastly, I tried the Awesomeness TV production “Foursome,” staring YouTuber Jenn McAllister (JennXPenn) as a high school girl looking for a relationship with an over-protective brother and three best friends. This show plays almost exactly like the teen sitcoms that are on Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel, just with more acknowledgment of the sexual conduct and drug use in high school. It wasn’t my particular favorite, but it is out of my genre, although I did find myself chuckling at a few of the jokes. People who will get the most enjoyment out of the YouTube Red original content are the people who are already fans of the content producers. New viewers may find the content entertaining, but it seems targeted to existing fan bases.
A third, and arguably the most prevalent, feature of YouTube Red is the inclusion of Google Play Music for no extra charge. This service is Google’s version of the music streaming service that Spotify and Apple Music already provide. If you are on the fence about whether the other services are enough to justify the cost, but you already pay for another streaming service, then cancel your other subscription and sign up for YouTube Red. As someone with eclectic musical tastes across six decades, I found this service gave me everything I need. Just like the other services, Google Play Music offers unlimited streaming of a catalog of millions of songs and artists. It has everyone from The Beatles to Kanye West to small indie artists, and it’s all included with YouTube Red. It also allows you to download the music, for those who have to be careful with their bandwidth usage. Google Play Music doesn’t bring any amazing innovations to the music streaming industry, but it does everything that is needed and does it solidly.
If you already pay $9.99 a month for Apple Music or Spotify Premium, Google Play Music will offer you the same service at the same price, but give you all of the ad-free content on YouTube. So if you are an avid consumer of YouTube content on a daily basis, or anyone with another music streaming service, I recommend that you at least test out YouTube Red and Google Play Music to see if you can get extra bang for your buck.