YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) is a paid streaming subscription service for YouTube in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, South Korea, Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. It provides advertising-free streaming of all videos hosted by YouTube, exclusive original content produced in collaboration with the site's major creators, as well as offline playback and background playback of videos on mobile devices.
The service was originally launched in November 2014 as Music Key, offering only ad-free streaming of music and music videos from participating labels on YouTube and Google Play Music. The service was then revised and relaunched as YouTube Red on October 31, 2015, expanding its scope to offer ad-free access to all YouTube videos, as opposed to just music. YouTube announced the rebranding of the service as YouTube Premium on May 17, 2018, alongside the return of a separate, YouTube Music subscription service.
The service was first unveiled in November 2014 as Music Key, serving as a collaboration between YouTube and Google Play Music, and meant to succeed the former's own subscription service. Music Key offered ad-free playback of music videos from participating labels hosted on YouTube, as well as background and offline playback of music videos on mobile devices from within the YouTube app. The service also included access to Google Play Music All Access, which provides ad-free audio streaming of a library of music. Alongside Music Key, Google also introduced tighter integration between Play Music and YouTube's apps, including the sharing of music recommendations, and access to YouTube's music videos from within the Play Music app. Music Key was not YouTube's first foray into premium content, having launched film rentals in 2010, and premium, subscription-based channels in 2013.
During its invite-only beta, Music Key faced mixed reception due to the limited scope of the offering; YouTube's chief business officer Robert Kyncl explained that his daughter was confused over why videos of songs from Frozen were not "music" in the scope of the service, and thus not ad-free. These concerns and others led to a revamping of the Music Key concept to create YouTube Red; unlike Music Key, YouTube Red was designed to provide ad-free streaming to all videos, rather than just music content. This shift required YouTube to seek permission from its content creators and rights holders to allow their content to be part of the ad-free service; under the new contract terms, partners would receive a share of the total revenue from YouTube Red subscriptions, as determined by how much their content is viewed by subscribers.
YouTube also sought to compete against sites such as Hulu and Netflix by offering original content as part of the subscription service, leveraging prominent YouTube personalities in combination with professional producers. Robert Kyncl acknowledged that while many of YouTube's prominent personalities had built their followings and created content while operating on a "shoestring budget", he admitted that "in order to scale up, it takes a different kind of enterprise, a different kind of skill set" such as story-telling and "showrunning". Prominent YouTube personality PewDiePie, who was involved in one of the planned originals for the service, explained that the service was meant to mitigate profits lost due to the use of ad blocking.