What Is YouTube Premium?

Find out how YouTube Red morphed into a premium cable alternative

youtube premium
YouTube Premium lets you watch and listen commercial-free on your phone and computer.

PeopleImages / E+ / Getty

YouTube Premium is a subscription-based service that provides ad-free access to all YouTube content. It covers the main YouTube website and app, the YouTube Music website and app, and the YouTube Gaming website and app. It also includes access to YouTube Originals and Google Play Music All Access.

What Happened to YouTube Red?

When YouTube Premium was introduced, YouTube Red was discontinued. YouTube Premium includes all of the same benefits, like ad-free videos, as YouTube Red, in addition to new features. YouTube Red subscribers were automatically migrated to YouTube Premium when it launched.

How to Sign Up For YouTube Premium

To sign up for YouTube Premium, you need to have a YouTube account. If you don't already have an account, that's fine, since you can create one when you sign up for YouTube Premium.

step by step instructions showing how to sign up for youtube premium
YouTube Premium includes a free trial period, but you need to provide your billing information to sign up.

Here's how to sign up for YouTube Premium:

  1. Navigate to YouTube.com/premium.
  2. Select TRY IT FREE.
    1. Tip: If you want to provide multiple family members with YouTube Premium, select TRY IT FREE inside the family plan box.
  3. Enter the email associated with your YouTube account and select NEXT.
    1. Note: Select create account if you don't have a YouTube account yet.
  4. Enter your YouTube password, then select NEXT.
  5. Select TRY IT FREE again.
  6. Enter your credit card information and select BUY.
    1. Important: Your card will not be charged at this time. However, you will be charged if you don't cancel before the free trial expires.
  7. Navigate to YouTube.com to view ad-free videos, music, and original content.

YouTube Premium Family and Student Plans

The basic YouTube Premium subscription applies to only a single account. If you have multiple YouTube accounts, only the one you sign up with receives YouTube Premium benefits; this also applies to family members. Only the person who signs up for YouTube Premium receives the benefits.

If you would like to extend your YouTube Premium benefits to more than one person, YouTube offers a family plan. This plan costs about 50 percent more than the basic plan, but enables up to six family members to access all of the benefits and extra content that comes with YouTube Premium.

What Do You Get With YouTube Premium?

YouTube Premium grew out of previous Google services like YouTube Red and Google Play Music All Access, and it includes all of the features and benefits that were available from those services.

youtube premium features and benefits
YouTube Premium includes ad-free YouTube, YouTube Music, YouTube Gaming, and Google Play Music All Access.

Here are the main benefits that come with YouTube Premium:

  • Ad-free videos: All videos on YouTube are available without ads. Don't worry about shorting your favorite creators, though; when you watch a video on a channel that would normally be able to run ads, they get part of your YouTube Premium subscription fee.
  • Offline videos: With a tap of a button, you can save videos to watch later, even when you aren't connected to the internet.
  • Background play: This feature allows you to play YouTube videos in the background on your mobile device, which is useful for listening to music while you use other apps.
  • YouTube Music Premium: Accessible via a web browser at music.YouTube.com, and through the YouTube Music mobile app, this service provides an easy way to listen to your favorite music, watch videos from your favorite groups, and explore music you may not have heard of yet, all without ads.
  • YouTube Originals: This content originated with YouTube Red, and it includes original movies and series from both popular YouTubers and mainstream stars.
  • YouTube Kids: Ads are removed from the YouTube Kids app, and you also get access to offline play.
  • YouTube Gaming: Ads are also removed from the YouTube Gaming app.
  • Google Play Music: This is Google's answer to Spotify, and it's included with your YouTube Premium subscription, ad-free, at no extra cost.

What Are YouTube Originals?

YouTube Originals are series and movies you can't watch anywhere but YouTube.

YouTube Originals
YouTube Originals are available for free with your YouTube Premium subscription.

The original slate of YouTube Originals showcased breakout YouTube stars like PewDiePie, but has expanded to include a variety of both reality and scripted programming, including the critically-acclaimed Karate Kid sequel series Kobra Kai.

What's the Difference Between YouTube Premium and YouTube TV?

YouTube Premium is YouTube without ads and with some extra content and features. YouTube TV is a direct cable alternative; they're separate services, and signing up for one does not give you access to the other.

The main point of confusion is that both YouTube Premium and YouTube TV give you access to YouTube Originals. However, YouTube TV subscribers still have to watch ads on regular YouTube videos, and they don't get access to any of the other YouTube Premium benefits.

If you sign up for both YouTube Premium and YouTube TV with the same email address, you can log into YouTube TV and watch YouTube videos ad-free without jumping back and forth between YouTube TV and the main YouTube site, but that's the limit of the integration between the two services.

Is YouTube Premium Really a Cable Replacement For Cord-Cutters?

YouTube Premium isn't a direct replacement for cable in the same way TV streaming services like YouTube TV, Sling TV, and Hulu with Live TV are. It doesn't have live television channels, so you can't use it to watch the same exact shows you'd normally watch on cable or satellite television.

If you don't watch a lot of regular television, and you enjoy the type of content that's available on YouTube, that's a different story. Since YouTube Premium provides both regular YouTube content and YouTube Original series and movies, ad-free, it's viable as a replacement for cable as a primary source of entertainment and news.

How to Watch Shows on YouTube Premium

YouTube Premium is basically just YouTube without ads, so if you know how to use YouTube, you'll be able to figure out YouTube Premium. It's the same service, using the same interface, on the same website and apps.

instructions showing how to watch youtube originals
YouTube Premium allows you to watch YouTube Originals through the same familiar interface you use for regular YouTube videos.

The only differences are when you watch a regular video on YouTube Premium, you don't have to watch ads, and you have the option to watch YouTube Originals.

If you're interested in checking out some YouTube Originals, here's how to do it:

  1. Navigate to YouTube.com and log in.
  2. Select Originals.
  3. Locate a series or movie you want to watch, then select it.
  4. Select Play All to queue up the entire series, or select an individual episode to watch it.

What is Background Play?

Background play is a YouTube Premium feature available in the YouTube mobile app. Without YouTube Premium, video playback stops as soon as you leave the YouTube app to use another app. This feature allows videos to continue playing, either in a picture-in-picture thumbnail or completely in the background.

instructions showing how to use youtube premium background play
Background play lets you listen to music and podcasts on your phone without leaving the YouTube app on the screen.

Here's how to make use of background play:

  1. Download the YouTube app, and make sure it's up to date.
  2. If you have multiple Google accounts on your phone, switch to the one that has a YouTube Premium subscription.
  3. Search for a video in the YouTube app and play it.
  4. Return to the home screen of your phone and the video will appear in thumbnail form.
  5. Drag the thumbnail wherever you want it, or tap the X to remove it.
    1. Note: The video will continue to play.
  6. Open the system tray to pause or stop the video.

Playing a video in background play mode is useful for listening to podcasts, music, and even playlists, without leaving the YouTube app open. You can open other apps and even lock your phone, and the video will continue to play.

How to Download Videos and Music With YouTube Premium

YouTube Premium allows you to download videos and store them for playback when you don't have access to the internet. This feature is only available in the YouTube, YouTube Music, and YouTube Gaming apps. It doesn't allow you to freely download videos from the YouTube website.

instructions showing how to download videos on youtube premium
YouTube Premium allows you to download videos on your mobile device, and they remain playable for up to 30 days without an internet connection.

Here's how to download videos from the YouTube app:

  1. Launch the YouTube app.
  2. Search for a video you want to download and play it.
  3. Tap the (three vertical dots) icon next to the video you want to download.
  4. Tap Download.
  5. Select the video quality, then tap OK.
  6. Open your Library or Account tab to view the video once it finishes downloading.

For the most part, you can watch your downloaded videos whenever you want, but there are some restrictions:

  • You can only watch a downloaded video when signed in to the YouTube app with your YouTube Premium account.
  • You need to connect to the internet at least once every 30 days, or you'll lose access to your downloaded videos until you do connect.