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Everything you need to know about YouTube Red

YouTube's subscription service, Red, has been out for a while now. Here's why you might want to sign up.

Google's well aware that YouTube is a video powerhouse of viral hits, music videos and unique shows you cannot find anywhere else.

Hoping to capitalize on its unstoppable success, Google created YouTube Red, a paid monthly subscription service with several perks that make your viewing experience better.

It's available now in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Korea and Mexico. Here's what you should know before you sign up.

Editors' note: This story was originally published on February 3, 2016. It has since been updated to include new details, such as support for YouTube Kids and all current YouTube Red Originals.

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It's the same old YouTube, now without ads.

Sarah Mitroff/CNET

What is YouTube Red?

It's a monthly subscription service from YouTube that removes advertisements from all videos, everywhere you watch. It was originally introduced as YouTube Music Key, a service that let you stream music and music videos from YouTube without ads. Google changed the name to YouTube Red and expanded it to all kinds of YouTube videos in late October 2015.

What do I get with it?

Using YouTube Red, you won't see ads on the YouTube website or within the YouTube apps on mobile and TVs. This does not apply to paid content on YouTube, such as paid channels or TV and movie purchases and rentals. You may still see ads with that content.

Here's a full list of devices where you can watch ad-free videos with YouTube Red:

  • YouTube and YouTube Gaming apps for Android and iOS
  • Chromecast
  • Android TV
  • Apple TV
  • Consoles: Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4
  • Roku (LT, 1, 2, 2 HD, 2 XD, 2 XS, 3, Streaming Stick, Roku TV)
  • Supported smart TVs

Currently, YouTube Red is not available on the YouTube app for the Amazon Fire TV.

YouTube Red has two other main benefits that affect how you watch videos: offline viewing and listening to videos with the screen off. These two features are available on the YouTube, YouTube Kids and YouTube Gaming apps for Android and iOS.

You can download YouTube videos to your phone or tablet and they are available for up to 30 days to watch without a connection. Some features, including liking or commenting on an offline video, aren't available when you're offline.

You can download videos to watch offline and pick the quality you want.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

The service also lets you listen to videos on your phone or tablet through speakers or headphones when you're in another app or while your screen is off. This is especially useful for music videos if you only want to hear the audio while doing something else.

Finally, starting in early 2016, YouTube Red subscribers began receiving access to new members-only original shows and movies from top YouTubers. It's possible that down the line new content creators will launch new channels and shows through Red, though for now, YouTube is focusing on existing stars.

The final benefit is that you get a free monthly Google Play Music subscription (normally $10) included with YouTube Red. The inverse is true too; if you already subscribe to Google Play Music, you also get access to Red automatically for free. You will not have to pay for both services separately.

What does it cost and how do I get it?

YouTube Red is $10 per month and currently only available in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Korea and Mexico.

You can sign up for a free one-month trial to try before you buy. Go to YouTube's Red landing page to sign in with your Google account and sign up. Until the end of 2016, the purchase of a Google Home speaker comes with a six-month trial of YouTube Red.

What kinds of original shows does YouTube Red have?

In February 2016, the first original shows and movies for Red members debuted. Here's a list of all current YouTube Red Originals:

  • "12 Deadly Days" is a horror-comedy web series that is a "twisted take on 'A Christmas Carol.'"
  • "A Trip to Unicorn Island" is a movie that follows YouTuber IISuperwomanII, also known as Lilly Singh, on her world tour.
  • "Alexander IRL" is a movie about two brothers who each have different goals and must work together to achieve them while their parents are out of town.
  • "Bad Internet" is a CollegeHumor short depicting a future where BuzzFeed quizzes decide how society will be divided into groups.
  • "Broke" is a BuzzFeed series about three friends who move from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and deal with being "first-world poor."
  • "Dan and Phil - The Amazing Tour is Not on Fire" is a live filming of a hit stage show put on by YouTuber danisnotonfire (Dan Howell) and AmazingPhil (Phil Lester).
  • "Dance Camp" is a film about a summer camp for dancers.
  • "DanTDM Creates a Big Scene" is a live-action animated series about DanTDM and his animated "friends" fighting to keep the show on the road.
  • "Escape the Night" is a reality murder mystery series hosted by Joey Graceffa.
  • "Fight of the Living Dead: Experiment 88" is a series in which 10 YouTubers have been selected to survive a simulated zombie apocalypse situation. Season 2, "Paradise Calls," is coming soon.
  • "Foursome" tells the story of a high school sophomore, Andie, who just wants a boyfriend. Season 3 is coming soon.
  • "Fruit Ninja: Frenzy Force" from Halfbrick Studios (creators of the Fruit Ninja game) is a 13-part animated series about young fruit ninjas solving problems and fighting villains. 
  • "Ghostemates" is an original movie by Smosh about Charlie who moves into a fully furnished apartment, that just so happens to also be inhabited by Eddie, a ghost.
  • "Gigi Gorgeous: This is Everything" is a documentary about the journey of YouTuber Gigi Lazzarato.
  • "Good Game" is a six-part series from GameGrumps about friends starting an esports team
  • "Hyperlinked" by Disney is a musical autobiography about five girls who created the website Miss O and Friends.
  • "Jingle Ballin'" is a short about a YouTuber who is homesick for the holidays.
  • "Kedi" is a documentary from vlogbrothers that follows the stories of seven cats from the streets of Istanbul.
  • "King of the Dancehall", inspired by a true story and directed and starred in by Nick Cannon, is a movie about a man who enters the drug trade in Jamaica, only to get wrapped up in the "dancehall musical craze."
  • "Kings of Atlantis" is a 13-part, Minecraft-inspired animated series about a chicken and penguin, set to become the kings of Atlantis, but have their throne stolen by their evil uncle. 
  • "Lazer Team" is a movie from Rooster Teeth about four unlikely heroes who have been tasked with saving the planet.
  • "Lifeline" is a seven-part drama series about an insurance company, Lifeline, whose agents travel ahead in time to prevent the deaths of their clients.
  • "Lindsey Stirling: Brave Enough" documents the life of violinist Lindsey Stirling and her struggles through the most challenging parts of her life. 
  • "MatPat's GAME LAB" is a series in which MatPat and other YouTubers immerse themselves in real-world video game challenges.
  • "Me and My Grandma" is a six-episode series from MyLifeAsEva about a girl who moves to Hollywood to pursue her dreams of becoming a star. Her grandmother tags along.
  • "Mind Field" from Michael Stevens (the creator of Vsauce) is based on a similar format to Vsauce videos. It's a series of documentary-style deep dives on some of the peculiarities of human behavior, the brain and consciousness. It was renewed for a second season.
  • "Prank Academy" is a series in which Jesse Welle and Joey Graceffa of PrankvsPrank and BFvsGF teach other YouTubers how to prank.
  • "Rhett & Link's Buddy System" tells the story of two best friends, Rhett and Link, as they try to save their morning talk show. It was also renewed for a second season.
  • "Run, BIGBANG Scout!" is a seven-part series about BIGBANG celebrating 10 years with a camping reunion.
  • "Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television" about an LAPD task force that partners actors with homicide detectives.
  • "Scare PewDiePie" is a reality horror series that puts the most popular YouTuber, PewDiePie, also known as Felix Kjellberg, into terrifying situations inspired by video games.
  • "Sing It!" is a comedy series about a singing competition.
  • "Single By 30" is a show about two friends, Peter and Joanna, who promised to marry one another if they were still single at 30.
  • "Squad Wars" from BuzzFeed is a 10-part reality game show where the Try Guys compete against other competitive teams in various challenges to bring home the "Tryphy." 
  • "The Keys of Christmas" is a holiday musical in which Mariah Carey, DJ Khaled, Fifth Harmony and Nicky Jam show "holiday hater" Rudy Mancuso the true meaning of Christmas.
  • "The Paranormal Action Squad" is an adult animated series about paranormal enthusiasts who seek to uncover the mysteries of the ghostly universe.
  • "The Thinning" is a film set in a post-apocalyptic future where population control is determined by a high school aptitude test.
  • "Vlogumentary" is a documentary about vlogging and what really happens behind the camera.
  • "We Are Savvy" is a 16-part series featuring DIY projects, interviews with celebrities and more.
  • "We Love You" is a movie about two best friends who fall for, and end up dating, the same girl.

YouTube is investing millions of dollars into more Red originals, which means there are tons of movies and shows just over the horizon.

How does YouTube Red affect me if I don't want to sign up?

Google will continue to keep YouTube just the way it is. Without a subscription to Red, you can still watch all of the videos and channels you like on the site, free of charge, but with ads.

You will miss out on the extra features Red offers, but nothing will change about how you use YouTube right now. Additionally, most of the original content available through Red will eventually become free with ads after an unspecified amount of time.

YouTube Red lets you listen to videos outside of the YouTube app.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

What is the YouTube Music app?

With the announcement of YouTube Red, Google also introduced the YouTube Music app, available now. It's a dedicated place to find YouTube's music content, including songs, remixes and music videos.

When you search for videos, the Music app filters out nonmusical results. So if you search for "Taylor Swift," you'll see her official music videos, plus live shows, lyrical videos, covers and remixes. Using YouTube Music, you'll be able to watch and listen to music on YouTube when your screen is off or you aren't in the app, but only if you have a Red subscription.

The app works without a YouTube Red subscription, but you won't get the benefits of Red, like ad-free or background listening.

Why would I want YouTube Red?

For some, getting rid of advertisements is reason enough to sign up for YouTube Red, but the other benefits might be more enticing.

Offline viewing is great for frequent travelers and commuters and Red offers an easy way to download YouTube videos. Being able to listen to YouTube videos with your phone or tablet's screen turned off is a small, but welcome, feature that's sure to please anyone who listens to music on YouTube.

And, if you have kids, Red works with the YouTube Kids app, too. So you can save videos for offline viewing to keep your kids entertained on long plane rides or road trips.

Speaking of music, there's one other compelling reason to try YouTube Red. Because YouTube Red includes free access to Google Play Music, it's arguably a better deal than Spotify, Rdio and other streaming-music subscriptions because you get both services. You might not prefer Google Play Music over another service, but it's hard to deny the value of getting both streaming music and ad-free YouTube watching, exclusive video content and offline videos. If you like YouTube videos and streaming music, this might be the best of both worlds for you.