$90 too much to watch the RWC? Spark boss bites back

Spark boss Simon Moutter took umbrage at the Herald’s headline on pricing for his company’s Spark Sport app: “Spark reveals Rugby World Cup could cost viewers up to $90.”

“Why such a negative headline? Less than one month Sky subscription during 2015 tournament and materially lower than the $100 or so we stated when we first bought the rights. A terrific deal for rugby fans!,” Moutter tweeted.

Moutter’s $100 figure was only ever notional.

But, more to the point, Spark says Singtel charged S$94.16 for its stream of the FIFA World Cup 2018 (in Australia, Optus included the FIFA World Cup – admittedly not an A-list sport across the ditch under a A$15 monthly pass with its ill-fated stream).

And Spark also highlights that Sky TV NZ charged $139.93 to watch the 2015 Rugby World Cup via its Fan Pass app, or $185 on Sky proper in standard definition.

Spark will charge early-bird pricing of $59.99 in May to watch every 2019 Rugby World Cup game live on its Spark Sport app (there will also be one-hour delayed coverage of all All Blacks pool games and the AB’s presumed quarter final on free-to-air partner TVNZ, which will also show the semis and final live and free)

That will rise to $79.99 if you wait until June, and $89.99 if you wait until the last minute.

Source / Spark.
Source / Spark.

And once the tournament’s underway, there’ll also be the option to buy access to individual matches for $24.99 per game.

Pubs and clubs will be charged the same amount as individual consumers – meaning a bar could screen the tournament to patrons for as little as $59.99 but Spark warns “future sporting events will be priced at commercial levels” for commercial premises.

Moutter didn’t want to comment beyond his tweet, but a spokeswoman offered, “The reception that we’ve had to the pricing announcement this morning has been really positive.

“We’re delivering pricing that makes watching the entire tournament truly affordable for New Zealanders – and that stacks up extremely competitively when you look at how streaming sports tournaments have been priced around the world.

“The tournament pass includes full match replays for 30 days following each match, an array of highlights, preview and review programming. It includes access to a range of historic Rugby World Cup match content as soon as the pass is purchased, giving rugby fans another reason to sign up early and relive the excitement of previous years. Spark Sport is the only place rugby fans will be able to watch every single match live or on-demand.”

Spark managing director Simon Moutter. Photo/Twitter.
Spark managing director Simon Moutter. Photo/Twitter.

Is the pricing fair? Ultimately, punters will vote with their wallets.

You don’t have to be a Spark customer to buy Spark Sport.

Scroll down for a list of devices supported by Spark Sport so far.

Fall-back plan

Spark has also confirmed rumours it will take a conservative approach, with 12 games also screening on free-to-air partner TVNZ, and a fallback plan – as first revealed by the Herald on February 15 – for other games to be transferred to TVNZ’s Duke channel “within a few minutes” in the event of technical glitches like those that ruined Optus’ attempts to stream the FIFA World Cup to an Australian audience last year.

The free games will be a mix of live and one or two-hour delay, following the model that Sky used with its Prime channel.

The free-game line-up:
• Friday 20 September / Pool A, Match 1 (opening match) / Japan v Russia / LIVE

• Saturday 21 September / Pool B, Match 4 / NZ v South Africa / Delayed by 1 hour

• Saturday 28 September / Pool C, Match 13 / Tonga v Argentina / LIVE

• Wednesday 2 October / Pool B, Match 20 / NZ v Canada / Delayed by 1 hour

• Friday 4 October / Pool B, Match 23 / South Africa v Italy / LIVE

• Sunday 6 October / Pool B, Match 27 / NZ v Namibia / Delayed by 1 hour

• Wednesday 9 October / Pool D, Match 32 / Fiji v Wales / LIVE

• Sunday 12 October / Pool B, Match 34 / NZ v Italy / Delayed by 1 hour

• One quarter final: TBC, but will be the NZ match, assuming the team progress past the pool stage / Delayed by 1 hour

• Saturday 26 October / Semi-finals, Match 45 / LIVE

• Sunday 27 October / Semi-finals, Match 46 / LIVE

• Saturday 2 November / Final, Match 48 and medal ceremony / LIVE

Rugby World Cup matches streamed on Spark Sport free-to-view

• Wednesday 25 September / Pool D, Match 10 / Fiji v Uruguay / Delayed by 2 hours

• Monday 30 September / Pool A, Match 18 / Scotland v Samoa / Delayed by 2 hours

Richie McCaw and Dan Carter with the Webb Ellis Trophy after the All Blacks won their back-to-back title at Twickenham in 2015. Photo / Photosport.
Richie McCaw and Dan Carter with the Webb Ellis Trophy after the All Blacks won their back-to-back title at Twickenham in 2015. Photo / Photosport.

Spark has so far released web, iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Android versions of its Spark Sport app.

Spark Sport was launched for the Melbourne Grand Prix in mid-March, priced at $19.99 a month. That price included all the sports in the Spark Sport stable bar the Rugby World Cup.

Spark says you won’t have to buy its $19.99 plan if you want the World Cup; you can choose to buy a RWC pass only.

The insurgent sports streamer had a few technical wobbles with the second race of the Grand Prix with some on-demand footage freezing, but Spark said it was a process and human error issue rather than a technical problem and pledged to use the next few months to smooth everything out.

Last week, Samsung said it would be the first smart TV maker to support the Spark Sport app, which will be added to models going back to 2016.

Other TV makers are expected to announce their plans shortly, and Spark is expected to announce the availability of the Spark Sport app for more devices before RWC kick-off.

Departing MD Simon Moutter has noted that Lightbox, Netflix and other streaming services have educated hundreds of thousands of households about streaming. That is true, but that still leaves an equal number who don’t know Airplay from their elbow. A huge education campaign is needed between now and RWC kick-off on September 21.

Mid-March, Spark said it had around 9000 Spark Sport subscribers. The company declined to give an updated figure.

READ MORE:
• World Cup broadband jam: time will run out
• Spark boss Simon Moutter ribs new Sky TV CEO Martin Stewart – but there’s a messy truth underneath
• Spark guaranteed World Cup streaming grief: RugbyPass boss
• Spark’s head of sport responds to skeptics
• New Sky TV boss trashes his company’s own Fan Pass service

How to watch the Rugby World Cup

Google Chromecast

A Google Chromecast plugs into the HDMI port of your TV and uses your home WiFi to stream sports from your device onto your TV. When watching something on the Spark Sport app, just click the Chromecast icon, at the top right-hand side of the screen, to cast the sport to your TV.

Apple TV

Spark Sport is not currently available on Apple TV. The company says it is working to introduce this functionality over the next 6 months. In the meantime, if you have an Apple TV and an Apple device, you can AirPlay from your device to a big screen.

Laptop and Desktop

You can also catch the action from the Spark Sport website, either on your laptop or desktop computer. Spark Sport is available on Windows 7, 8 and 10 and MacOS X on the following browsers: Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

Mobile Devices

If you’re out and about, sometimes you’ll want to watch the action from your smartphone. To do this head to the App Store or Google Play Store and download the app. The Spark Sport app works on iOS 10 and above and Android 5.0 and above. Spark Sport will use your mobile data for streaming, if you are not connected to WiFi.

Smart TVs

Spark Sport is not currently available to watch using an app on Smart TVs. Once again, the company says it is working to introduce this functionality onto a number of different TV makes and models. Samsung will add Spark Sport to its Smart TV app line up in May, supporting models going back to 2016.

Game consoles

A Spark Sport spokeswoman says “We have not announced a partnership with Xbox or Playstation. We do aim to expand the number of platforms that Spark Sport is available on, to make it as accessible as possible.”

Source: Spark