How Do You Stream Videos on YouTube?

By Anjannette ConnerLast Updated September 21, 2020
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After the company’s founding in 2005, YouTube rose quickly through the ranks of online video websites to become an industry leader that streams more than a billion hours of video a day. That’s impressive growth for a site that started with a single video of a co-founder’s (Jawed Karim) day at the San Diego Zoo. Today, YouTube includes billions of videos, ranging from clips featuring makeup tips and DIY home repairs to music videos and celebrity interviews.

It’s the number one, go-to resource for legally streaming free content — copyrighted materials posted without legal permission are removed — and the platform is very easy to use. You can watch your favorite videos for hours or tackle the challenge of creating new content of your own. Here’s a quick look at what you need to know to start streaming videos on YouTube.

Create Your Own YouTube Account

Technically, you don’t have to create a YouTube account to just watch videos on the site, but signing in allows you to take full advantage of all the site’s features. For example, you won’t be able to like or dislike videos, share videos, save videos to playlists or subscribe to different creators’ channels if you don’t sign in to your account. You also won’t be able to create your own content for your own YouTube channel without an account.

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Google acquired YouTube near the end of 2006, so you will always sign in to YouTube using your Google account information. If you already have a Google account, simply click Sign In in the top right corner of the main YouTube page and enter your Google email address and password. If you don’t have a Google account, choose the option to create an account and follow the steps.

Once you sign in, navigating the site is very straightforward. The navigation bar along the left side of the page gives you options for quickly accessing your library, history, saved and liked video choices, subscription channels, feedback and more. The main screen will feature a changing selection of videos that might interest you based on your viewing history. If you want to find a specific video, use the search bar at the top of the page to type in keyword requests. Clicking your photo icon in the top right corner provides access to your account details.

Choose Your Tier of YouTube Service

Like most streaming services these days, YouTube offers a few different options to take care of your personal streaming needs. If you simply want to watch free videos occasionally in your spare time, then you may be quite happy with the standard YouTube account that provides access to billions of videos free of charge. However, advertising revenue supports the cost of all those free users on the site.

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If you want to watch all your favorite content without the nuisance of ad breaks, you can do so by paying a modest monthly subscription fee to access YouTube Premium. Besides no ads in videos, YouTube Premium allows you to listen to music on YouTube Music without advertising interruptions. You can also download videos and music to your device to watch or listen at times (up to 30 days) when you don’t have available data or an internet connection.

As a top tier streaming service, YouTube TV gives subscribers access to cable-like TV service with no cable box or contract required. Service includes access to more than 85 live TV channels, including Food Network, HGTV, Nickelodeon and TNT as well as broadcast icons like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. In addition to live streaming, you can record all your favorite shows for later viewing without ever worrying about how much recording space you have left. Each YouTube TV account is valid for up to six users, although only three users can stream simultaneously.

Upload or Broadcast Your Own Original Content

When you set up your account on YouTube, you can create your own original content for your YouTube channel and then promote that content to gain subscribers. Your content could be videos you film, edit and upload to the site, or you could broadcast live streams with the touch of a button. Many companies have embraced the Streamlabs OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) on YouTube to create webinars, tutorials, online instructional videos, interviews and other pieces of video content. Even novice filmmakers can easily use the suite of tools.

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But perhaps the most interesting element for many people is the ever-growing number of success stories about individuals — collectively known as YouTubers — who have turned making videos for YouTube into full-time, successful careers. To earn money for your original content, you must be enrolled in YouTube’s Partner Program, which requires a review of your channel.

The different types of monetization include payment for ad revenue, channel memberships, views by premium members, merchandise recommendations and a service called Super Chat, where subscribers pay to boost their messages in chat streams. Once your YouTube channel is approved, you have to meet specific qualifying criteria to turn on the different types of monetization. For example, view count and subscriber minimums must be met for several revenue streams, and making money on ads requires you to produce advertiser-friendly content.

Use Third-Party Software or Hardware Encoders to Stream Live Videos

For live streaming, many YouTube creators stick to using the webcams on their computers or their mobile devices. However, some prefer to use third-party encoders to create and stream live videos. This method is particularly useful if you want to use multiple cameras to create a more complex production.

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To live stream using an encoder, you must enable live streaming and then install the software or hardware encoder. Software encoding options include Stage Ten and Xsplit Broadcaster. Hardware encoders include Elgato Game Capture HD60 and SlingStudio. Some software, like Streamlabs OBS, is also available for mobile devices.

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