Onion launching video newscast

ONN will be a 24-hour fake news net

Long after the Onion challenged the Harvard Lampoon as Hollywood’s primary font of comedic writing talent, the news satirists are taking their shtick to video.

The weekly is launching a video newscast dubbed Onion News Network, or ONN, a 24-hour fake news net marketing itself as, “faster, harder, scarier and all-knowing.”

“Our competitors are MSNBC and CNN,” said Onion prexy Sean Mills, distancing the new network from the fake news genre so successfully explored by Comedy Central and “Saturday Night Live.”

“Those are parody shows, and this is serious news,” he said. “There’s no studio audience, and no one’s in on the joke. What we are trying to create is a broadcast-quality newscast on the Internet.”

Starting Tuesday, ONN began releasing segments on Theonion.com. Unlike Viacom, which demanded that clips from “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show” be taken down from YouTube, the Onion will encourage fans to disseminate ad-supported clips around the Web.

The newscast marks a long, circuitous route to video that included numerous offers to do TV, at least one TV pilot and a feature film project financed by Regency, “The Onion Movie,” which started shooting in 2003 but was never released. Mills said the Onion is no longer associated with that project.

The Onion’s offering will be ad-supported, but rather than require viewers to watch an ad before getting to the segment, the clips begin with a “brought to you by” message and are followed by an ad created to be consistent with the tongue-in-cheek sensibility of the newscast.

Ad will be followed by a brief mention of upcoming segments, giving the viewer some incentive to watch the ad.

Concept was created by online marketing firm Deep Focus, which acts as online ad agency for Dewars, one of the initial sponsors of the newscast.

Other initial advertisers include Hyundai, Red Stripe and MSNBC.com.

Clips from the newscast will be available as free podcasts on iTunes, and the Onion is discussing content partnerships with YouTube, Joost, MySpace and TiVo in which they’ll split the ad revenue with the distributor.