Commentary

The Vast, No, Make That Cosmic, Wasteland

If women think men channel-surf like ADD-sickened, Red Bull guzzlers now, wait until "the new AT&T" delivers on its promise of 1,000 or more channels of TV over the Internet within 18 months. While on the surface this sounds like the painfully long-awaited signal for consumers to call their cable companies and tell them to stuff their rising rates up their digital cable boxes, the fact is, we will need their broadband connection more than ever--and AT&T may prove once and for all that too much choice is like no choice at all.

I am certain that RSS-like programs will narrow the "channels" we really want to see to a single interface, eliminating that 500-cable-delivered-channels-feeling that you are probably missing something better on another channel. With online, men can enter keywords like "full frontal nudity" and "violent death via really cool weapons" and avoid having to decipher the two lines of copy cable (or the dead tree guide) provided to outline what the movies are about.

And just who will provide all of this content? (That is, the content that is not made up of stupid cable-like stuff like music channels with static screens, PPV, gaming, shopping, and talk shows that cost $29.95 an hour to produce.) With the separation of church and state already crumbling thanks to product placement and pressure from major marketers, I suspect AT&T will invite advertisers to produce their own programming and stop all the whining about GRPs and under-delivery. Here is a preview of how you fill up 1,000 Internet TV channels:

Martha.com--reruns of all the kitchen shows she ever produced before taking that federally funded vacation in West Virginia. Also, there won't be many, but hiding like Brazil nuts among the mix of nuts people really eat will be her "Apprentice" shows and vintage footage of Herself declaring: "I am innocent and will be completely exonerated."

Can I Get Some Help.com--consumer-generated phone cam footage of shoppers trying desperately to get help from workers at Home Depot, Costco, or Best Buy--or trying to find the guy at Wal-Mart with the key to the video game case. There may be enough of this to fill several channels running 24/7.

The Complete Orgasm.com--not what you are expecting, but rather footage from various TV auto commercials that equate driving this car or that car with blowing your load. Or being able to drive up walls or turning tank traps into the autobahn or somehow driving a car off that vertical rock formation. Enter a contest to watch them shoot the 2007 Pirelli Calendar. Let it dawn on you that fat, ugly people apparently do not buy cars (with the possible exception of Lamborghinis.)

The Therapist Channel.com--a just-graying, middle-aged bespectacled man sits in a paneled office beside a comfortable fireplace, staring at the camera, nodding and occasionally saying "Really, how did you feel about that?" or "Hmmm, VERY interesting, tell me more..." while you pour out your problems to the LCD. He never takes a potty break, yawns, or looks bored. Nor will he suggest that you form a closer bond by removing your clothes.

My Way or The Hiway.com--footage secretly shot by teens with cell phone or video cams of their parents ranking on them about cleaning their rooms, getting a haircut, watching their language, coming home on time, getting better grades, pulling up their pants, or not hitting their siblings. Kids can compare and vote on who has the worst parents or overlay music tracks on the angrily animated faces of their parents to create a universally appreciated new art form.

Since You Asked...com--a collection of all the talking heads video shot for every Web site targeted to the online advertising community. Highlights include Joseph Jaffe's 1,000 reasons to buy his book or attend one of his road shows; Steve Rubel's 16-part series on the merits of blogging; Jeff Jarvis on, well, Jeff Jarvis (and his trusty laptop); a loop of the Revenue Science/American Airlines study that runs nonstop--forever, and ever, and ever. Do a keyword search for terms like "engagement" and "traction" to find the most tedious tapes.