YouTube Inches Toward Netflix With Its New Paid Subscription Tier

YouTube Red will let viewers watch YouTube videos without ads–and eventually access exclusive content for $10 per month.

YouTube Inches Toward Netflix With Its New Paid Subscription Tier
[Photo: Flickr user Tanay Mondal]

The world’s biggest online video site is going freemium. As widely speculated for some time, YouTube is launching a pay subscription service, on October 28. The premium tier, called YouTube Red, will let viewers watch videos without ads and save videos for offline, among other perks. It will cost $10 per month on the web or Android, $13 per month on iOS due to Apple’s 30% fee.


YouTube Red, which launches alongside a new app called YouTube Music, will let people stream video and audio ad-free on YouTube, YouTube Kids, YouTube Gaming, Google Play Music, and YouTube’s new music app, regardless of which device they happen to be using.

Have you ever noticed how the audio from the YouTube mobile app cuts out whenever you minimize it? Well, now we know why: YouTube wants your money. One of the perks the company is packing into YouTube Red is background listening, which keeps the audio flowing on mobile while you’re using other apps.

To make its $10 price tag easier to swallow, YouTube is offering exclusive content, such as a feature-length movie based on the “Unicorn Island” YouTube series and a 10-episode season of “Sing It,” a show by the Fine brothers originally pitched to MTV. YouTube has been investing heavily in original programming for a few years now, but has yet to land a House of Cards-level hit. With Red, YouTube is hoping to inch closer to Netflix and HBO territory with a list of new, original movies and TV series available exclusively to subscribers.

Other launch partners include expected names like Maker Studios and College Humor. Right out of the gate, none of the original content YouTube is launching features a roster of household Hollywood names, but with exclusive video now tied directly to its paid subscription strategy, it’s hard to imagine that YouTube’s focus on original shows won’t continue to get sharper.

YouTube is also further formalizing its already huge role in online music with the launch of a new app. YouTube Music (formerly known as YouTube Music Key) is a standalone music streaming app designed to take on Spotify and Apple Music. YouTube Music will exist alongside Google Play Music, the company’s other all-you-can-stream music service, which is included in YouTube Red’s $10 subscription price.

About the author

John Paul Titlow is a writer at Fast Company focused on music and technology, among other things.