YouTube is easily the most well-known video platform on the web. Launched in 2005, and then acquired by Google in 2006 for over $1.6 billion, the video service began its life mostly as a web-based PC service, allowing anyone to upload their creations for everyone to see and watch. When smartphones started becoming popular by the end of the 2000s, followed by the rise of smart TVs, YouTube apps followed, and its popularity exploded. Google now says that over 1.9 billion users worldwide check out YouTube videos every month, and that over 70 percent of its video views come from mobile devices.
Of course there’s a lot more to YouTub than just its core service. Google has branded many products with the YouTube name including YouTube Music, YouTube Premium and YouTube TV. While they may share the same brand, they all have very different features. Here’s a look at all of the YouTube services that Google currently offers.
YouTube (including YouTube Kids)
The OG YouTube service is still massively popular and easily the most important of the YouTube services under the brand. Whether you’re just an average Joe or a massive company, anyone can upload their videos on the service and there are no fees for those who want to watch them either. Google does have certain rules over what kind of videos can be uploaded, including ones that are subject to copyrights infringements. This has caused quite a bit of controversy for the service over the years, as some companies have attempted to remove videos that include content that’s not been approved by the copyright owner for posting.
YouTube content makers can create channels to upload their original videos, and users can subscribe to those channels and be informed when new content goes live. YouTube users can also post comments under each uploaded video (if the creator allows them to do so). Creators can also launch live streams of their content as well. Indeed, YouTube live streaming has become an effective way for companies to launch new products or promote their latest ventures to the rest of the world.
YouTube creators can make money by using Google’s AdSense program, which normally puts in video ads in front of, or sometimes inside, their clips. They can also make money via banner ads placed on the bottom of their clips. Some YouTube creators can even set up subscriptions for their users, which allows them to upload special videos made just for their paying subscribers, along with other perks.
Google lets people pay or rent movies and TV shows from the major, and many of the smaller, Hollywood studios directly from YouTube (any movie purchased on YouTube can also be viewed in the Google Movies and TV app on the same Google account, and vice versa). In addition, YouTube has a smaller selection of Hollywood movies that can be viewed in full for free, if you don’t mind commercials.
In addition to the main YouTube app, Google also has a separate YouTube Kids app. This is basically a curated way for kids to surf YouTube videos that are made for the younger audience, with some extra parental controls. It’s not really a separate YouTube service; it’s more of a restricted version of the same service.
YouTube Music is Google’s latest attempt to break into the streaming music business. Launched in June 2018, it’s basically a replacement for the older Google Play Music (the latter service technically still exists, but will likely be phased out in the near future). It offers streaming music from a vast library of songs and albums as well as music videos, and it allows you to create and manage your own playlists.
While YouTube Music can be accessed in an ad-supported version for free, the real benefits come when you pay for a premium subscription. For $9.99 a month, you can ditch the ads and listen to your favorite tunes without annoying breaks, and it also supports offline music listening via downloads, as well as playing songs in the background or while your phone screen is locked. If you are an eligible student, you can access the paid YouTube Music for just $4.99 a month. If you have more than one person in your family that wants to access it, there’s also a $14.99 a month tier that supports up to six family members in one household on one account.
YouTube Premium was previously called YouTube Red but was renamed when YouTube Music launched in June 2018. It’s also the only service that doesn’t come with its own app. It’s a paid add-on for YouTube power users. For $11.99 a month, you not only get all of the benefits of YouTube Music, but you can also watch nearly any YouTube video without any banner ads or video ad breaks (this does not apply when you watch the free Hollywood movies posted on YouTube, however).
In addition, you can listen to the audio of any YouTube video in the background with a YouTube Premium subscription, and you can download and watch videos offline as well. Until just recently, YouTube Premium was also the only way to watch Google’s lineup of exclusive TV shows and movies under its YouTube Originals banner. Those shows include the hit Karate Kid sequel series Cobra Kai. However, YouTube has now revealed that the content in YouTube Originals will soon become available for everyone to watch, supported by ads. It’s possible that new YouTube Originals content will make their debut first on YouTube Premium before they become supported by ads, but that’s just speculation at this stage.
As with YouTube Music, students can sign up for YouTube Premium for a lower price; $6.99 a month. There’s also a family plan for $17.99 a month that covers up to six people on one account.
YouTube TV, much like YouTube Music, is Google’s entry in an already crowded field of entertainment services. This time, YouTube TV is taking on internet-based TV services like Sling, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now and others. Like those cord-cutting services, signing up for YouTube TV will allow you to watch live television from your smartphone, smart TV or other supported devices. Over 70 channels are available with the basic subscription, and that includes all of your local broadcast channels. YouTube TV is now available in the entire United States.
YouTube TV allows up to six people to use the service on one account, and it supports up to three simultaneous video streams. Perhaps the service’s biggest feature is the unlimited cloud DVR feature. Yes, you can record and rewatch as many TV shows and movies on your YouTube TV channel lineup as you want with no storage limits. The only limit it does have is time; the cloud DVR recordings will expire nine months after you store them.
The price for YouTube TV is $49.99 a month with a 14-day free trial. There are a number of other channels that you can add to your lineup for additional fees, such as regional sports networks, and pay movie channels like Showtime, Starz and Epix (sadly, YouTube TV currently does not offer a way to watch HBO through its service; you will have to sign up for a separate HBO Now subscription for access).