YouTube Red is a premium ad-free subscription service with original platform-funded content and offline access. Available in the US since November 2015, it finally launched in Australia today. Here's what you need to know.
Update: There have been reports of issues with the sign up process. YouTube has been contacted and we will update as soon as there is more information. In the meantime, signing up to Google Play Music can be used as an alternate way to gain access.
While six months might seem like a time to long wait, Australia is actually the first region out of the US to receive access to YouTube Red. With 28 Australian channels with over one million subscribers, and a more global audience (90 per cent of our content is watched overseas) than any other region, Gautam Anand, Director of YouTube Content and Operations, Asia Pacific said it was a logical choice.
"There are more than 400 hours of video uploaded every minute, so we want to make it easier for you to find your favourite videos and give you more choice about how you watch them," Anand explained.
YouTube Red membership will ordinarily set you back $11.99 per month, but there's an introductory offer of $9.99 per month — with the first month free — if you sign up before 6 June. Signing up via iOS will cost $12.99 per month if you sign up before 6 June, and $14.99 if you sign up afterwards.
"The lion's share" of the membership fee goes to the creators, just like with YouTube advertising revenue, Anand said.
So what do you get for the money? Your membership is valid on any device and across all YouTube services — including the newly launched YouTube Gaming app.
Ad-Free and Offline
No more pop-up ads, pre-roll ads or any other kind of ad for the matter. You're paying for a premium service to get rid of all of that, after all.
You can also save any content to watch offline — perfect for flights, remote regions with dodgy service or even just if you're watching your data usage.
Have you ever been watching a YouTube video, only to get a message and the video stops as soon as you check it? Some content lends itself to being "background" noise — music, podcasts, reality shows. YouTube Red lets you play videos in the background while you do other things on your phone or tablet. including lock the screen.
"It's all about multi-tasking," Anand explains. "You can be watching a video, but still access other apps."
Membership gains you access to YouTube-funded original content. There are currently 10 shows available, so don't consider this part of the service to become a Netflix rival anytime soon. Working with creators like Rooster Teeth on projects like Lazer Team, Anand assures what is on offer at present is "just the beginning", with more programming to be added throughout the year.
"This is just another way that we can support creators, and help them get to the next level," he said. Plans with local content creators for original programming can't be revealed at this time, but it is something that YouTube are "looking into."
Not content with just one launch, YouTube are taking it a step further and releasing a dedicated YouTube Music app, too. Taking advantage of the huge amount of music content already on YouTube, the app is designed to make discovering, watching and listening to it easier.
"There's a lot of music on YouTube," T Jay Fowler, Product Management Director of Music at YouTube said. "Music videos, tracks, artists, albums, remixes, covers, lyric videos, and concert footage — the new app simply makes it easier to find, organise, listen to offline and discover new content."
By taking the route of simply "rearranging" content for users, as opposed to creating a streaming service from scratch, YouTube have avoided the need to renegotiate payment deals with artists, but Fowler reiterates that "creators get the majority of the revenue raised from content hosted on YouTube".
Remember YouTube MusicKey? The beta was run as an exclusive, invite only program that YouTube ultimately used to research what people really want from a music app. A couple of things were discovered.
For starters, music listeners on YouTube consume more content on the site overall. We not watch and listen to music videos, but a wide range of other types of content, too. We are multi-taskers. Secondly, we want easy to find premium content — official videos, not just covers. And lastly, we want to keep an eye on data and battery usage, conserving it where possible.
Skip to 1:15 in the video above to see the app in action
YouTube Red members also gain the ability to listen to music without ads, play videos offline, and easily switch between video or audio-only. You'll get background playing, meaning you'll be able to continue playing the video, even when you're in another app or have your screen turned off.
You'll also get your own personal station with recommendations based on your tastes. There's a broader, long form station as well as genre-based stations that are a bit more narrow. You can control the variety with a special "slider" and give a thumbs up to content you particularly like — which gets added to its own station for easy access later on.
There's also trending lists with the most popular music on YouTube each day.
The YouTube Music app will also automatically create an offline mixtape for you, and YouTube Red membership automatically gives you premium membership to Google Play Music, too.
Although you can access YouTube Red via the regular YouTube app and desktop site as well as the dedicated iOS and Android versions apps, the vanilla version of YouTube is still there — along with YouTube Kids, YouTube Gaming, and YouTube Music apps, free of charge.
"We're just giving you more choice about how you watch YouTube," Anand said. "Soon, we hope you’ll be watching what you want, when you want, on any device you want, uninterrupted."
This story originally appeared on Gizmodo.