(UPDATE: Spark Sport had 115,000 for Australia vs Wales but - obviously jinxed it below - got hit by audio problems.)

Ireland's pain was Spark Sport's gain.

The number of concurrent streams peaked at 96,000 during the Japan vs Ireland match, "climbing rapidly during the second half as word spread that the Brave Blossoms were heading for a massive upset win against the Irish," the telco says.

That was the second-highest audience for Spark Sport behind last Saturday's All Blacks vs Springboks match, which peaked at 132,000 streams.


Of course, the New Zealand-South Africa stream had some well-documented stuff-outs.

Spark says there were no issues with its Japan-Ireland - and its social media feeds, which were relatively free of gripes, back up that narrative.

Spark long-maintained Saturday would be its toughest test, given the All Blacks' other pool games are soft, and the semis and final will be live on TVNZ.

But last night's upset means the ABs could now potentially play Ireland in their quarter final, or the plucky hosts (the other possibilities are Scotland and Samoa).

Japan's Kenki Fukuoka of Japan runs with the ball to score his side's first try during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group A game against Ireland at Shizuoka Stadium. Photo / Getty
Japan's Kenki Fukuoka of Japan runs with the ball to score his side's first try during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group A game against Ireland at Shizuoka Stadium. Photo / Getty

That new possibility of an interesting opponent, plus the general buildup of World Cup hype, means it's now quite possible the quarter-final will be streamed by as many as the All Blacks-Springbok game, or more - giving Spark Sport a shot at redemption.

I hope the quarter-final goes well, for the sake of streaming and future competition.

But the Rugby World Cup 2019 has still been very much a free-to-air-party.

TVNZ reported a total audience of 927,000 for last Saturday's game (it's not apples for apples because more than one person can obviously watch a Spark Sport stream, but you get the general idea).


And when you look at the second Bledisloe test, Sky says 523,000 watched it on decoders* - indicating there's quite a pool of rugby fans who were not moved to sign up to Spark Sport.

(Again, Spark's 132,000 streams on Saturday could each have been watched by multiple people, but against that the telco has not said how many have paid and how many got it free as a qualifying Spark customer.)

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Given Spark is said to have paid $13m for RWC 2019 rights (or roughly twice what Sky paid for the last tournament), with $1m defrayed by partner TVNZ, back-of-the-napkin calculations indicate Spark needed around 133,000 paying subs just to cover its rights costs.

The telco would have bagged part of the sponsorship revenue, but it will also have spent millions on hardening its networks, partnering with iStreamPlanet and Akamai, and bring on hundreds of extra support staff.

Spark is likely to have paid around $6m to $8m for its three seasons of English Premier League football rights, according to a former rights holder, and around the same again for its Formula One content.

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That's a big commitment for a new venture, but chump change next to what Spark will have to pay for season-long rugby rights.

Will Spark's management and board have the stomach for that fight against a newly-resolute Sky?

Spark Sport's performance during the All Blacks' quarter-final will help inform that decision.

* A further 408,000 watched the delayed version of the test on Prime, an estimated 100,000 in a pub or club, and 55,000 streamed it via Sky Sport Now or Sky Go.