Pay-TV's revolutionary OTT services are coming up short on revolution

Daniel Frankel, FierceCableMeet the new pay-TV. Same as the old pay-TV.

I can't say I'm not intrigued by the possibility—seemingly real this time—that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) will launch a streaming pay-TV service. The concept of the company with the biggest market capitalization, and which controls what is perhaps the most proliferate collection of multiscreen devices in world, finally entering the market sounds like formidable competition to me.

But at the end of the day, when I'm watching Better Call Saul on AMC or Villanova vs. Lafayette in the Tournament on TBS, will it really matter to me if I'm seeing it via a groundbreaking $40-a-month OTT service, or the TV Everywhere component of a stripped down $40-a-month traditional cable package?

If I'm a twentysomething consumer who has never thought about pay-TV, is the fact that Apple is bringing me MTV and Discovery Channel going to bring me into a loop I had no inclination to join in the first place?

Speaking to the New York Times on Wednesday, Discovery Communications founder John Hendricks, who is launching his own SVOD service, CuriosityStream, called the movement to OTT services "a revolution."

"There are some seismic shifts that will occur," he said.

With everyone repackaging, slicing and dicing the same old linear channels, there seems to be a little actual rebellion lacking in these supposedly revolutionary OTT services.

"What all these services have in common is that they are all simply re-aggregations of traditional cable and broadcast networks," says a report issued earlier this week by media analyst firm MoffettNathanson. "Our sense remains that we are still looking in the wrong place for disruption. The real revolution is likely to come from outside the traditional ecosystem, from the Vimeos and Vessels and even Facebooks of the world, where content is being created and distributed entirely outside the existing ecosystem, often at a fraction of the cost of traditional linear TV.  Our suspicion is that the millennial cord cutter isn't waiting around for just the right package of cable channels that only their parents watch."

Explicitly targeted to millennial-aged consumers, Dish (NASDAQ: DISH) seems to sort of get this with Sling TV, which has a dedicated channel for Maker, one of YouTube's more successful content producers. Sling TV is ramping up pretty fast, adding A+E Networks to its basic service just this week. But there doesn't seem to be a lot of momentum outside of the linear incumbents.

Neither Apple nor Sony, which is rolling out PlayStation Vue commercially in several large regional markets, is touting programming acquisitions outside of the major institutional conglomerates.

The exception seems to be occurring with Verizon and AT&T, which are both looking to program video services aimed at younger mobile consumers.

Verizon (NYSE: VZ), for example, just signed a deal with DreamWorks Animation-owned YouTube MCN Awesomeness TV to bring 200-pieces of short-form content annually to its soon-to-launch video service.

AT&T (NYSE: T), meanwhile, is similarly ramping up short-form content aimed at younger mobile audiences through a production agreement with former Fox chief Peter Chernin's production company.

These truly revolutionary services promise to have lots of content we've never heard of from producers we know nothing about.--Daniel

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