The service was first unveiled as Music Key, a similar subscription music streaming service, and first made available as an invite-only beta in November 2014. It offered ad-free streaming of music and music videos from participating labels on YouTube and Google Play Music. The service was re-launched in a revised form as YouTube Red on October 28, 2015, expanding its scope to offer ad-free access to all YouTube videos, as opposed to just music, as well as premium content produced in collaboration with notable YouTube producers and personalities.
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; there is [a] story-telling skill set, there is showrunning, etc."
On October 21, 2015, it was announced that the service would be re-launched in a revised form as YouTube Red on October 28, 2015, expanding its scope to offer ad-free access to all YouTube videos, as opposed to just music, as well as premium content produced in collaboration with notable YouTube producers and personalities. Prominent YouTube personality PewDiePie, who is 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.
A YouTube Premium subscription allows users to watch videos on YouTube without advertisements across the website and its mobile apps, including the dedicated YouTube Music and YouTube Gaming apps. Through the apps, users can also save videos to their device for offline viewing, and play them in the background. YouTube Red will also offer original, premium content exclusive to subscribers, the content will be created and published by YouTube's largest channels and creators. The service also offers ad-free music streaming through the Google Play Music All Access service.
YouTube Premium will offer original films and series; they will be produced in collaboration between professional studios and existing YouTube personalities. Content in development for or to be available on YouTube Red includes:
- A Trip to Unicorn Island, a documentary focusing on Lilly "Superwoman" Singh.
- Fight of the Living Dead, a reality competition produced by Alpine Labs, which will feature YouTube talent attempting to survive a zombie apocalypse.
- I Am Tobuscus, a comedy series starring Toby Turner as himself, satirizing the life of a YouTube celebrity.
- Lazer Team, a sci-fi comedy film produced by Rooster Teeth and Fullscreen Films.
- Scare PewDiePie, a horror-themed reality series starring video game streamer PewDiePie, in which he will be placed into live-action scenarios inspired by horror video games. The series will be produced in collaboration with Skybound Entertainment of The Walking Dead fame.
- Sing It!, a 10-episode parody of reality music competitions produced by The Fine Brothers and Mandeville Films.
- Escape The Night with Joey Graceffa, a murder mystery show where Youtubers must solve puzzles in order to escape a haunted house in the 1920's, starring Joey Graceffa.
- MatPat's Game Lab, a documentary lead by YouTuber Matthew "MatPat" Patrick, featuring the YouTuber's attempts to test whether virtual game mechanics work in real life.
- Dance Camp, a dance comedy film.
- Prank Academy, a YouTube Red Original Series that stars PrankvsPrank's Jesse and Jeana and debuted on March 30, 2016.
- Foursome, a YouTube Red Original Series that debuted on March 30, 2016. The show will be getting a season 2.
- Single by 30, a romantic drama series from Wong Fu Productions and New Form Digital, starring Harry Shum, Jr. and Kina Grannis.
- Bad Internet, a comedy series about darkly comedic ways that the internet can go wrong
- Untitled Smosh Movie, This comedy film features Luckless Charlie (Anthony Padilla) who moves in an apartment, to find out he has a self-centered ghost named Max (Ian Hecox) as a roommate.
- Untitled "Step Up" series, a show based on the series of films that share the same name. Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan Tatum will be executive producers. 
- Rhett & Link's Buddy System, In this scripted comedy series, Rhett and Link must regain control of their internet empire which was stolen by their mutual ex-girlfriend who is an infomercial queen. 
- Vlogumentary, Executive produced by Morgan Spurlock, Maker Studios, and Shay Carl. "Vlogumentary" shows a deep outlook on YouTube's biggest creators and the power of the vlogging platform.
- Untitled Animated Series, 3BLACKDOT and their top YouTube creators, SeaNanners, TheMrSark, and VanossGaming star in this animated series helmed by Michael Rowe.
- Untitled Michael Stevens Project, in this educational series, Vsauce creator Michael Stevens will take a deep look into the human brain and human nature using real subjects, including himself and celebrity guests.
- Untitled Dan & Phil Tour Documentary, a documentary based on Dan Howell and Phil Lester's tour called "This Amazing Tour is Not on Fire". 
- Untitled Gigi Gorgeous documentary about her transition and struggles with Oscar-winner Barbara Kopple involved.
- Super Baxter Adventures, An Animated Series made by TheSuperBaxter. It is also the second animated series to premiere on YouTube Red. The series revolves around Baxter, a sider trained under the fire gods who was chosen to protect humanity and everyone from the Evil King Mahroe.
- Miraculous Red, An Animated Series made by TheSuperBaxter. It is also the third animated series to premiere on YouTube Red. The series is a Spin-Off to Miraclous Ladybug as well. The series follows Baxter Eberusu, a young kid who is constantly bullied by others, turns into the superhero Red Noir to protect Paris from being invaded by Akumatized Villains.
On December 3, 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google was pursuing deals to stream other film and television series for YouTube Red subscribers—a move that would put the service in more direct competition with services such as Amazon Video, Hulu, and Netflix.
In May 2014, prior to the official unveiling of the Music Key service, the independent music trade organization Worldwide Independent Network alleged that YouTube was using non-negotiable contracts with independent labels that were "undervalued" in comparison to other streaming services, and stated that YouTube threatened to block a label's videos from public access if they did not agree to the new terms. In a statement to the Financial Times in June 2014, Robert Kyncl confirmed that these measures were to "to ensure that all content on the platform is governed by its new contractual terms." Stating that 90% of labels had reached deals, he went on to say that "while we wish that we had [a] 100% success rate, we understand that is not likely an achievable goal and therefore it is our responsibility to our users and the industry to launch the enhanced music experience." The Financial Times later reported that YouTube had reached an aggregate deal with Merlin Network—a trade group representing over 20,000 independent labels, for their inclusion in the service. However, YouTube itself has not confirmed the deal.
Following the unveiling of YouTube Red, it was stated that these same contractual requirements would now apply to all YouTube Partner Program members; partners who do not accept the new terms and revenue sharing agreements related to the YouTube Red service will have their videos blocked entirely in regions where YouTube Red is available. The YouTube channels of ESPN were a notable party affected by the change; a representative of ESPN's parent, The Walt Disney Company, stated that conflicts with third-party rightsholders in regards to sports footage contained in ESPN's YouTube videos prevented them from being offered under the new terms. A limited number of older videos remain on ESPN's main channel.
Similarly, a large amount of content licensed by Japanese and Korean record labels was also blocked from access in the United States following the launch of the service. The Japanese music industry has traditionally shown a stricter stance towards copyright enforcement, and a resistance to digital distribution of music in any form.
- ↑ YouTube unveils Music Key subscription service, here's what you need to know. AOL. Retrieved on 12 November 2014.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 YouTube announces plans for a subscription music service. Retrieved on 12 November 2014.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 YouTube Launches ‘Music Key’ Subscription Service with More Than 30 Million Songs. Retrieved on 12 November 2014.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Red Dawn: An inside look at YouTube’s new ad-free subscription service. Vox Media. Retrieved on 21 October 2015.
- ↑ Google Play Music subscribers will get free access to YouTube Music Key. Retrieved on 16 November 2014.
- ↑ Miguel Helft. "YouTube takes a small step into the film rental market", The New York Times, January 20, 2010. Retrieved on August 13, 2010.
- ↑ "YouTube’s 30 Pay-Channel Partners Run from Kid Fare to Cage Matches", Variety. Retrieved on 29 August 2015.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 YouTube Red Unveiled: Ad-Free Streaming Service Priced Same as Netflix. Retrieved on 21 October 2015.
- ↑ Shaul, Brandy (2015-11-02). PewDiePie on YouTube Red: 'Adblock Has Actual Consequences'. SocialTimes. Mediabistro Holdings. Retrieved on 2015-12-01.
- ↑ Josh Constine. YouTube Red, A $9.99 Site-Wide Ad-Free Subscription With Play Music, Launches Oct 28. TechCrunch. AOL. Retrieved on 21 October 2015.
- ↑ "YouTube Seeks Streaming Rights to TV Shows, Movies", The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on 4 December 2015.
- ↑ YouTube will block videos from artists who don't sign up for its paid streaming service. Retrieved on June 17, 2014.
- ↑ YouTube subscription music licensing strikes wrong notes with indie labels. Retrieved on June 17, 2014.
- ↑ Talks with indie labels stall over YouTube music subscription service. Retrieved on June 17, 2014.
- ↑ YouTube to block indie labels who don't sign up to new music service. Retrieved on June 17, 2014.
- ↑ YouTube Will Completely Remove Videos Of Creators Who Don’t Sign Its Red Subscription Deal. AOL.
- ↑ ESPN is shutting down its YouTube channels over paid subscriptions. Retrieved on 23 October 2015.
- ↑ "CD-Loving Japan Resists Move to Online Music", The New York Times, September 16, 2014. Retrieved on 25 January 2016.
- ↑ "YouTube blocks Japanese contributors' content for refusing to use its paid version", Networkworld, IDG. Retrieved on 25 January 2016.
- ↑ Japanese music and vocaloid content disappears as YouTube rolls out new paid service. Retrieved on 25 January 2016.
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