The Onion is making history in more ways than one with their latest mini-feature online video ‘Future: News From 2137. The satire news organization is not only making history by reporting news from more than one hundred years in the future, but also by charging viewers to watch a video for the first time ever. The Onion is asking viewers to pay $2 for the new video at the Apple iTunes Store. The question is, will viewers pay for the video and does this charge indicate a future where viewers will be required to pay for the bulk of their online video?
The Onion provides a description of the new video on their store website:
“More than 125 years into the future, the Onion News Network remains the world’s most powerful media empire, dispensing the finest news, commentary, and swooshy graphics 24 hours a day directly into the right eye of every viewer through technology called ‘EyeStreaming.’
“In the aftermath of a catastrophe known only as “the Burndown” a screaming, tattooed thug has been installed as the president of what remains of the United States, the last remaining Israeli and Palestinian are still locked in battle, and completion of the world-destroying ‘Doomsday Machine’ has been delayed once again.
“These stories and more are revealed in “Future: News From The Year 2137″ because to stay ahead in today’s world, you need to know what’s going to happen in tomorrow’s.”
It sounds like a great premise, and the trailer looks promising, but I don’t know if I’m ready to pay $2 to watch it yet. According to the NY Times, The Onion is charging for their video as an experiment. The Onion has relied on profits gleaned from advertising alone for the library of over 300 videos that they have produced thus far. Charging for videos could be a nice boost to The Onion’s profits. Vice president for business development at The Onion, Marc Lieberman, says “We made [this video] so dense that it needs to be watched over again – and maybe slowed down.” In other words, he seems to think it’s worth paying $2 for.
Andrew Wallenstein of The Hollywood Reporter asked the question that’s on everyone’s minds – Will anyone pay to watch this video? Wallenstein thinks that people will pay to watch ‘Future: News From 2137’ for one simple reason. “The reason is the Onion is really good at original video. I mean, really, really good.”
I agree with Wallenstein that people will be willing to pay for original online video content if the quality is worth the price, and The Onion is likely to provide enough bang for your buck to make the $2 worth it. However, what does the fact that The Onion is beginning to charge for online video say for the future of video on the web? Hulu has already launched a paid video service and YouTube allows users to charge rental fees for their videos as well. Will the future of online video be a future of paid content? What do you think? Will you pay to watch The Onion’s latest mini-feature masterpiece?