New Zealand’s broadcasting world received somewhat of a shake-up last year when it was announced that Spark, one of the country’s major telecommunications providers, had won the rights to the Rugby World Cup.
Sky Sport, who owned the New Zealand rights to most of the major rugby competitions around the world, had been the key broadcast partners for the previous two tournaments and the switch to Spark for the World Cup was seen as a relative coup for the ‘little man’.
There was, however, some trepidation – given that Spark have never previously been tasked with broadcasting a live experience on such a major scale. There were also concerns that many rugby fans would not get to view the World Cup as they either lacked highspeed internet (in the more rural areas) or lacked internet access at all, as is the case with many older viewers.
Still, fans have remained hopeful that come the hour, Spark Sports would stand up to the intense pressure it would be placed under.
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When the tournament kicked off on Friday night, a number of users took to Twitter to vent their frustrations. Broadcast quality was choppy at times for some viewers, whilst others found they weren’t able to access the broadcast at all.
Naturally, it’s the unhappy few that are most likely to vent their issues on social media and Friday night’s issues were apportioned to just a vocal minority of users.
Spark Sports users took to Twitter to showcase the range of issues they were facing:
— Aimuk (@OmgGir) September 21, 2019
Well that was disappointing #sparksport. After only a couple of small buffering moments last night and two games today, the #NZLvRSA (the one that really mattered) was an all you can eat buffer. Looked great on Duke!
— Matthew (@mattssmithnz) September 21, 2019
Can i have my money back? Constant buffering, i have fibre internet connected by an ethernet cable only 1 in the house using the internet. Disappointed. #sparksport
— Carlos Valpy-Smith (@MoztashioGaming) September 21, 2019
— Morgan Carroll (@Morgz121) September 21, 2019
As was announced prior to the tournament’s kick-off, Spark had a back-up plan in place should the service not be up to the required standard. Twenty minutes into the match, the game was made available on free-to-air TV for all.
A small percentage of our customers are experiencing streaming issues when watching the All Blacks v South Africa match. To deliver a quality experience for all customers we will making the rest of the match available immediately on TVNZ DUKE. We apologise to those impacted.
— sparknzsport (@sparknzsport) September 21, 2019
Whilst viewers appreciated the alternative option, they were also quick to chastise Spark’s suggestion that it was just a “small percentage” of customers who were affected.
Judging by social media, a “small percentage” is a LOT of people!
— Brendon Trass (@brendontrass) September 21, 2019
Small percentage my ass! What a disaster!! ???????????????
— Dave Nicholas (@davenicholasnz) September 21, 2019
*everyone in New Zealand. Just give the tournament to SkySports already
— Sarah (@Sarah_8128) September 21, 2019
The next All Blacks match won’t take place for another week and a half, and there’s likely to be far fewer viewers tuning into the match against Canada than there were against New Zealand’s highest-ranked pool opposition, the Springboks.
Chances are that the next massive workload that Spark will face won’t eventuate until the quarter-finals, which gives the company plenty of time to sort out their issues – whether it’s an easy fix, however, remains unknown.
Last night, Spark released a statement indicating that they were “uncomfortable at the quality” of their service and would be doing all they could to alleviate the issues.
Regardless, Spark’s reputation will have taken a massive hit thanks to the problems faced by so many customers, and trust will be at an all-time low.
Spark gaining the rights to the World Cup was considered a huge boon for the company, but it looks like the win may come back to bite them.
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