There's more stress for Spark as it gears up to stream the Rugby World Cup.

The telco had a "we'll scratch your back if you scratch ours" arrangement in place with other internet service providers.

Spark brought ISPs together to encourage a collective effort to make sure streaming of the marquee sports event went seamlessly.

There as a broad consensus that would be good for the broadband industry - and a quid pro quo, with ISPs given the opportunity to sell Spark Sport passes for Rugby World Cup coverage.


But now that consensus is under pressure, with 2degrees boss Stewart Sherriff lashing out at what he sees as foot-dragging on Spark's part.

His beef: Spark has begun to promote $60 earlybird RWC passes, and says it will put them on sale to the public later this month - but ISPs are still waiting for details of a wholesale arrangement that will let them sell it too.

2degrees Chief Executive Stewart Sherriff says Spark's assurances that other ISPs would gain wholesale access to the Rugby World Cup encouraged it to bring forward investments in network capacity, with many other ISPs doing so too.

"Although Spark has been very active in bringing ISPs together to ensure they invest to make Spark's branded product look good when the tournament starts in September, it's been a game of delay when it comes to wholesaling," Sherriff said this afternoon.

"On April 16, Spark announced its RWC tournament pass pricing would be available from May 1 with a 'super early bird' price of $59.99 that increased to $79.99 in June. ISPs were told they wouldn't be allowed to resell the tournament pass until June and that they'd need to wait until April 24 for more details.

"As of last week, the date for more information was pushed out until early May – after the Spark retail service is set to launch."

A Vodafone NZ spokesman declined detailed comment, but noted "there are no wholesale agreements in place" as of today.

Mark Callander, the boss of Vocus (owner of Orcon and Slingshot, told the Herald, "We have been underwhelmed by the lack of a wholesale offer and the reluctance to engage with Vocus. We made it very clear that we wanted to resell the Rugby World Cup pass to our customers.


"It is important that Kiwis know that they don't need to be a Spark broadband customer to get access to the Rugby World Cup, it is available to stream through all internet providers.

"We hope Spark's behaviour isn't designed to try and trick or misled customers, or make people think the experience is better on Spark's network.

"We've invested millions of dollars in our network and bought forward further investment this year to ensure streaming experiences are world class."

2degrees boss Stewart Sherriff says his company has accelerated investment in their networks to help Spark Sport's Rugby World Cup push, but a quid pro quo resale deal has yet to appear.
2degrees boss Stewart Sherriff says his company has accelerated investment in their networks to help Spark Sport's Rugby World Cup push, but a quid pro quo resale deal has yet to appear.

For Spark, spokesman Andrew Pirie said, "A commercial wholesale offer to other ISPs is still being finalised, in respect of both the Spark Sport monthly subscription and the Rugby World Cup 2019 tournament pass. We intend to share more information with ISPs shortly."

Pirie reiterated that people don't need to belong to Spark to buy Spark Sport or an RWC pass.

Sherriff said Spark's treatment of ISPs is "the kind of behaviour Spark warned about when vigorously opposing the proposed Sky Vodafone merger in February 2017."

Spark warned about the need for "an effective wholesale regime to prevent the monopoly shifting into another market" and that the merger should be declined so Sky would be "highly incentivised to work with all broadband companies to produce a range of sporting products and bundles that can be delivered in a new way across everyone's services," Sherriff noted.

"Since then, Spark has acquired the monopoly for Rugby World Cup content. Right now, it is promoting its low-price tournament pass - collecting contact details from customers of the same ISPs that invested to deliver a smooth Rugby World Cup," the 2degrees boss said.

The latest grief for Spark Sport comes on top of more streaming problems that saw last weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix race buildup temporarily interrupted.