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Spark cuts deal with Sky for commercial customers to access rugby world cup

Tuesday 30th July 2019

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Spark New Zealand and Sky Network Television have cut a deal where the pay-TV operator's commercial customers will be able to access the rugby world cup using a Sky decoder. 

Sky's commercial customers will be able to access a pop-up to access all 48 matches live at a one-off cost, that the companies said was confidential but reflected "the quality and scale of the event". The telecommunications company will foot the bill for setting up the pop-up channel, but also receive all related revenue, the companies said in a joint statement. 

Spark's chief financial officer Dave Chalmers, who is the executive lead for Spark Sports, said the company has tested its streaming offer over a broadband connection and is confident in the service. 

"But we also wanted to provide an alternative option for venues that would prefer to use their existing infrastructure, particularly for those locations without streaming-ready broadband connectivity," Chalmers said. 

"This partnership with Sky means that commercial businesses which already have Sky set up in their premises have options for how they screen the tournament, to ensure that as many commercial premises around New Zealand as possible can show the rugby world cup in its entirety."

Spark trumped the pay-TV operator in winning the rights for the marquee sports event and has been hoovering up other sports rights including football, tennis, racing and formula one motorsport. 

Australia's Optus' attempted to broadcast the 2018 football world cup via streaming services, which failed, and it was forced to make the games available on free-to-air television.

That experience raised concerns about Spark's ability to reach more remote areas in New Zealand on broadband alone. 

Last month, Communications Minister Kris Faafoi told a select committee hearing that government officials had been working with the telco and wireless internet service providers to ensure rural communities would be able to access the rugby broadcast. As at March 31, about 75 percent of the population could access ultrafast broadband and the rural broadband initiative was about 40 percent through. 

Sky strategic partnerships lead Sophie Moloney said the company was pleased to provide alternative access for the world cup, which is a major event for pubs and clubs across the country. 

"We are pleased to be able to work together with Spark to deliver this alternative access option for our commercial customers, including those in rural areas who don’t yet have access to fast enough broadband," she said. 

Sky's new chief executive Martin Stewart has renewed the company's focus on sports rights, announcing the launch of 12 new sports channels from August, a sports news channel, and a new sport streaming service. 

Sky shares increased 2.4 percent to $1.26 when trading opened today, and Spark was up 0.4 percent at $3.915

(BusinessDesk)

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