YouTube Premium: everything you need to know about YouTube’s subscription service as it launches in the UK

From cost and features to exclusive original shows, YouTube's head of Originals Luke Hyams explains YouTubes new paid subscription service

The YouTube video app is seen on various digital devices on 28 March, 2017. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

YouTube’s premium music and TV streaming service is available in the UK!

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The new paid-for service (formerly known as YouTube Red) offers subscribers access to a host of new features on YouTube, including the ability to download videos, stream videos with the app in the background, as well as exclusive access to original content.

A separate music streaming service and app (YouTube Music, which functions like the Spotify and Apple music apps) is available.

We spoke with YouTube’s Head of Originals for Europe, Luke Hyams, who gave us a full briefing on what exactly YouTube Premium offers – as well as what it means for free YouTube in the future.


What is YouTube Premium?

YouTube Premium is a subscription service designed to offer heavy YouTube users additional content and services designed to make their viewing experience better.

“If [users are] big fans of music and use YouTube for music, they’ll get a brand new music app,” Luke Hyams explains. “If they love the main YouTube platform, they’ll get the ability to have seamless plays without adverts, to download videos and to also listen to videos with the screen of your phone off or in other apps.”

But that’s not all. In addition to the new functions, YouTube Premium members will get access to exclusive shows and original programming, content that won’t be available anywhere else.

A screenshot of the YouTube Premium app, featuring original shows Cobra Kai and Impulse (YouTube)
A screenshot of the YouTube Premium app, featuring original shows Cobra Kai and Impulse (YouTube)

Hyams says that programmes on offer “have been inspired by viewing trends on the main YouTube platform,” but that these ‘original series’ are only part of the story.

YouTube already has so many viewers; it’s free and everyone loves it being free,” he says. “So what we’re asking people to pay for is not just additional shows: it’s functionality, and it’s a musical element as well.”

How much does YouTube Premium cost?

The full service is priced at £11.99 per month in the UK, which includes all the bonus functions, YouTube Music and exclusive shows.

There is also a YouTube Premium ‘Family Plan’ for £14.99 per month (which will allow up to six people to share the account, provided everyone lives in the same household and is over the age of 13).

However, YouTube is also offering users the chance to try YouTube Premium for one month before deciding whether it’s worth paying for.

If users just want to access music, there is a separate YouTube Music subscription which will cost £9.99 – but it won’t grant users access to original programming.

YouTube Music will also be available for free with ads.

YouTube Premium cost

What exclusive shows are on YouTube Premium?

You can watch the first episode of the following YouTube Premium shows below…

  • Cobra Kai. This drama-comedy series takes inspiration from the Karate Kid films. Taking place 34 years after the original films, it sees a middle-aged Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence finding themselves as martial-arts rivals again.

  • A comedy-drama described as a “woke” Mean Girls by some, Youth and Consequences tackles issues from feminism to sexuality at US high school.

  • Step Up: High Water. Drawing from the  Step Up films, this show is – as you’d expect – pure dance drama.

  • The drama series Impulse sees teen Henrietta ‘Henry’ Coles discovering she has the extraordinary power of teleportation.

  • Origin. This sci-fi drama starring Harry Potter’s Tom Felton and Game of Thrones’ Natalia Tena follows a group of strangers stranded on a spacecraft bound for a distant planet.

Other shows include:

  • Action comedy Wayne follows 16-year-old Dirty Harry on a bike ride from Boston to Florida
  • Time travel series Lifeline
  • Comedy Rhett and Link’s Buddy System from YouTube stars Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal.
  • Documentary series Mind Field, which delves into “the mysterious depths of the human psyche”

How does YouTube Music work?

YouTube Music functions just like Apple Music and Spotify before it: by providing unlimited access to a gigantic library of music via a smartphone app/web browser. It will allow users to stream music without ads, and without videos.

The service will also offer full albums, remixes, live performances and covers that are often only easy to find on YouTube.

“What we’re really trying to do is draw focus to that, offer curated playlists, and the ability to not have to watch with the videos: to have a separate music player that comes up, either in your browser as a new tab or a separate music app, that allows you to have access to the catalogue of music on YouTube,” Hyams says.

How will YouTube Premium affect free YouTube content?

Hyams says that while they are working with current stars to produce higher budget, long-form programming, that programming will primarily serve as a “bonus” to the content that they are already producing on their own channels.

Just think bigger,” he says. “These bigger projects are definitely elevated from what’s going on on the main channel.”

It also won’t necessarily limit the more elaborate programmes that YouTube have made available for free in the past, such as Jack Whitehall Training Days, a six-part pre-World Cup 2018 series that saw the comedian playing games with the likes of José Mourinho, Gareth Bale and Raheem Sterling.

The Jack Whitehall Training Days is kind of a different story,” he says. “That is in front of the paywall, and the thinking behind that is, that show was just commissioned to be a part of the specific moment on YouTube, which was the run-up to [the] World Cup.”

Will YouTube Premium focus on younger audiences?

Not quite. Hyams says that the view that YouTube is a young person’s service is a “massive misconception”

“A lot of the famous YouTubers are people who talk to a younger audience, and a lot of them had such a strong pick-up with younger people who have basically known that as their main way of consuming video for all of their life if they’re under 13,” he says. “But we have the data to show that YouTube is an across-the-ages success story. Every different age is going on YouTube, often for different purposes. Young people going for slime videos, older people going to figure out how to put coolant in their engine.”

He continued: “There’s a load of different ways that people of different ages are enjoying it. So we wanted to make sure that the premium offering as well would feel premium and still different to the stuff that is readily available on the platform.”

Will YouTube’s biggest stars like Zoella start going behind the paywall?

It’s possible, but not necessarily a guarantee. Hyams is adamant that YouTube is only going to invest in programming that will benefit from a bigger budget and further creative – which likely won’t be the case for someone like Zoella, who seems to be doing just fine on her own.

“If we find the right concept to do together, and someone like Zoella feels the opportunity to do some sort of creative thing she would like to provide her audience with that she can’t do on her own, then definitely we could work with her to make a show, absolutely,” he says.

“I think it’s one of these important things where we’re not going to try and put a square peg into a round hole. We’ve got to make sure that the stuff that we invest in actually feels like it’s an elevation that is connected to the stuff that is already on the main channel.”

What countries is YouTube Premium available in?

The UK is one of 17 countries where YouTube Premium is now available. The US was the first country to have the service, but from  it can now be accessed in the US, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Mexico as well as Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Is this the end of free YouTube?

Hyams is adamant that YouTube is not going to stop being a free service just because there’s now YouTube Premium. “I don’t think so – not in any way, shape or form,” he says.

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A version of this article was first published on 18th June 2018