Spark Sport has taken another step toward its 2019 Rugby World Cup coverage with its $60 "Super Early Bird" passes going onsale today.
Those who wait until June will have to pay $80.
Those wait until September will have to shell out $90.
Spark says pubs and clubs will be charged the same price as individuals - a move that is in part a nod to the fact the telco freely acknowledges that not everyone, especially in rural areas, will have good enough broadband to watch its RWC stream in the home.
You don't have to be a Spark customer to buy Spark Sport, which will offer every game of the tournament live and on-demand.
The telco says it will give a full pre-tournament refund if it turns out your broadband isn't good enough to stream the tournament.
Free-to-air partner TVNZ will screen all of the All Blacks' pool games, plus the All Blacks' presumed quarter-final, albeit on a one-hour delay. The state broadcaster will also offer both semis and the final live and free-to-air.
Spark has had a number of glitches with Spark Sport, which is currently being used to stream Formula One and a number of other events (under its $20/month package that excludes the RWC).
But Spark Sport head Jeff Latch says it has worked most of the time. Bugs were always anticipated, and that problems so far have been mostly down to human error. Things will be ironed out in the months ahead.
Some pundits are wary of how the service will perform when millions pile in for the RwC, including a former Spark partner.
Spark says it's confident it will hold up, but that if the worst happens - as it did across the Tasman last year when Optus' FIFA World Cup stream fell over - it will transfer coverage to TVNZ within minutes.
Spark says a key part of its efforts for a smooth World Cup Stream is cooperation with other ISPs.
But last week, 2degrees boss Stewart Sherriff, backed by Vocus boss Mark Callander, said ISPs had accelerated investment in their networks to support Spark with the quid pro quo that they would be able to re-sell Spark Sport to their customers.
But on the eve of Spark's earlybird offer going live, a wholesale deal wasn't in sight.
"It's a game of delay," Sherriff complained.
Read the latest on the wholesale barney here.
Get in quick
Chorus has also weighed in, saying it has work crew capacity to hook up around 90,000 homes to UFB Fibre - of around 700,000 outstanding - by RWC kick-off.
A stream can be watched over a wireless or copper line connection, but UFB fibre is best if you're casting to a regular TV, other people are using the internet in your household at the same time, or you want to avoid "contention" (telco-speak for the peak-time slowdown that hits copper lines when lots of people pile on at once).
The bottom line: if you want to stream the Rugby World Cup, and don't have UFB Fibre yet, get it as soon as possible.
And experiment with Spark Sport now. (If you subscribe today, there's archive content to play with.)
Don't wait until the eve of the RWC to try to stream it to your TV for the first time. By then, support lines could be jammed. Big time.
How to watch the Rugby World Cup
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/NZ Herald