Sports foes Spark and Sky TV have revealed a surprise alliance to help pubs and clubs stream the Rugby World Cup.
The pair say commercial premises will be able to buy access to a Spark Sport pop-up channel on their Sky decoder.
Previously Spark Sport had been pushing a setup for pubs and clubs based on a $299 box from Dish TV.
Spark was offering pubs and clubs the right to stream RWC games for the cost of an individual Spark Sport Tournament subscription ($90 or $80 early-bird), rather than the thousands it cost for an equivalent deal from Sky - in part to mollify fears about streaming quality in some urban homes and many rural ones. But it called for a complicated new setup involving HDMI switches.
The new partnership with Sky will allow pubs and clubs to simply use their existing big screen TV or projector setup.
The deal is likely to wind up 2degrees and Vocus, who had their own plans to wholesale Spark Sport, only to see talks acrimoniously collapse.
Sky TV external affairs director Chris Major told the Herald that her company will not get any revenue cut from Spark Sport subscriptions, but that the telco would be making a payment to cover Sky's costs.
The amount of the payment has not been disclosed.
The deal covers clubs and pubs only. But once set up, Sky's RWC pop-up could easily be expanded to all customers - at least in technical terms. Commercially, Spark stresses "We don't plan to expand this partnership with Sky to Sky consumer customers" and that TVNZ will remain both its vehicle for free All Blacks pool game, quarter, semi and final coverage, and its fall-back if anything goes south with other games.
There are precedents for old-school and new-school sports broadcasters cooperating on some levels, even as they compete for rights. In the UK, for example, BT won rights to some Premier League games from Sky TV UK, but those games can be viewed through (extra cost) channels on Sky.
The partnership is one of a range of measures by Spark recently to goose interest in its Tournament Pass.
The telco recently made an RWC Tournament Pass free to new or renewing Spark customers, and introduced a $149 in-home service to walk people through streaming setup.
The new commercial premises deal is in addition to Spark Sport's existing offer to commercial customers to stream Rugby World Cup matches from the Spark Sport app over their broadband connection.
As announced in April, commercial customers can purchase a Spark Sport Rugby World Cup Tournament Pass at the consumer price through sparksport.co.nz/rwc2019. This option gives both consumer and commercial customers access to all 48 matches live and on demand, plus access to a range of highlights and archive matches.
Additionally, from today, Sky commercial customers can buy access to a Spark Sport RWC pop-up channel through Sky, which includes all 48 matches live. Commercial customers can access the pop-up channel for a one-off cost at commercial rates. Rates are confidential but reflect the quality and scale of the event.
Under the terms of the partnership, Spark will cover the costs of SKY establishing the pop-up channel and will receive all related revenue from SKY commercial customers.
David Chalmers, Executive Lead for Spark Sport, explains, "After testing in a wide range of commercial environments, we are confident in the Spark Sport streaming service that we are making available for commercial premises. 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.
"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."
Sophie Moloney, SKY's Strategic Partnerships lead, said that "Watching the Rugby World Cup is a special activity for many New Zealanders, and a big part of the sports calendar for pubs and clubs throughout 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."