When Google announced YouTube Red — a paid monthly subscription service that disables advertising, among other perks — many of us thought "just use an ad blocker." But it isn't really that simple.
Ad blockers give you an ad-free YouTube experience, but also take revenue away from the creators whose work you enjoy. Without that revenue, much of the content you watch on YouTube wouldn't be there in the first place. Then again, $10/month isn't necessarily cheap, especially with all of the subscriptions we consider paying for these days. So, the question remains: Is YouTube Red actually worth it?
Here's where morality kicks in. YouTube Red gives users the opportunity to watch any video they like without any form of advertisement. No 30-second, un-skippable ads; no large, unsightly banners on the bottom of the screen. This all without having to use an ad blocker, which, while pleasant for you, is unfair to YouTube creators.
Ads are removed from all of YouTube's apps, including YouTube Music, YouTube Gaming, and YouTube Kids.
For the cost of a subscription, you can help your favorite creators make a living while continuing to watch distraction-free. Not only that, but several reports indicate that content creators get paid more per view when YouTube Red subscribers watch their videos.
But are moral values worth $10 to you? Luckily, ads aren't the only thing you're paying for with YouTube Red.
If you aren't into the creators on YouTube Red's list of original content, this feature probably won't appeal to you.
To compete with platforms like Netflix and Amazon, YouTube Red provides original content unavailable on its free site. Creators like PewDiePie, Rhett and Link, and Vsauce have produced TV-esque content for the service, while others like Logan Paul, Rooster Teeth, and Lilly Singh created feature films.
The exclusive content here is a toss-up. Those who don't follow these creators may or may not like the material. I have only watched Vsauce's show Mind Field, which I do like. But exclusive content, while a significant pull for Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, is not a reason to shell out $10 for YouTube Red.
Like Spotify, Netflix, and more before it, YouTube now allows you to download content for offline viewing. If you have a limited data plan, or if your commute takes you to places without cell service — I'm looking at you, NYC subway — this feature is indispensable.
Personally, I like to fish through my Watch Later playlist and find videos I'd like to watch on my commute. It's an easy way to keep up with my favorite YouTube channels, and makes my commute breeze by.
As with ad-free streaming, offline viewing is available across YouTube's suite of apps.
If you're a multitasker, you know how irritating it can be to start a YouTube video, exit YouTube to, say, respond to a text, only to have your video pause on you. Smartphones feel more and more comparable to a full-PC experience, except when stupid obstacles like this one get in the way.
YouTube Red solves this issue by allowing users to keep playing videos even when the YouTube app isn't in the foreground. Whether you leave the app to text, Google, or check Facebook, YouTube will keep playing. If you lock your phone, your YouTube video will continue on.
It takes a bit of time to get used to the idea, honestly. I would hit the home button or the lock switch and expect the video to pause, only to be pleasantly surprised to find the opposite.
This feature combined with offline playback makes YouTube Red the perfect service for playing music — except the last major YouTube Red perk basically removes the need for that.
If you need a definitive argument for YouTube Red's worth, here it is — Google Play Music is bundled into a YouTube Red subscription. Not only can you stream and download YouTube videos, but you can also stream and download any song in the Google Play Music library.
While other streaming services like Spotify may be more popular, it's tough to argue about the value here — $10/month for one music streaming platform, or $10/month for music and all of the above YouTube Red features. To each their own, but personally, I see the Google Music/YouTube Red combo as the better bargain.
But it gets better. Google offers a family pricing plan for its music streaming service, so you can have up to six people on one plan for $14.99/month. That comes out to about $2.50/month per person if you split the bill six ways. And, yes, it comes with YouTube Red.
Do you know five people who would enjoy Google Play Music and YouTube Red for $2.50/month? If you don't, find some, because this is an excellent deal.
So, is YouTube Red worth it? In the opinion of this video consumer, absolutely. Guiltless ad-free streaming, offline playback, and Google Play Music combine to make $10/month easier to swallow. Not to mention, finding five other users to share one account almost feels like stealing.
In short, YouTube Red is a no-brainer for some. If your wallet forces you to decide between it and other services like Netflix or HBO Now, your choice comes down to your own situation. Does the content on those platforms intrigue you more than downloadable YouTube, or Google Play Music service? I can't help you there.
What I can say is YouTube Red is perfect for people like me who want to consume as many internet videos as possible, whenever, wherever. I give YouTube Red a high recommendation.