Spark remains silent on some key numbers, such as what it cost to grab and host Rugby World Cup 2019 rights, and how many people got a Tournament Pass paid or free as a qualifying Spark broadband or mobile customer.

But this morning the telco released some interesting numbers for Spark Sport - which started with a wobbly performance as it made the decision to simulcast the key NZ-South Africa pool match on TVNZ from half-time, but finished the tournament on a relatively strong footing - even if issues in between saw some 60 complaints to the Commerce Commission, a mauling from ex-All Black Craig Innes and a Facebook mob threatening a class action.

Spark says 20 per cent of customers needed help with its streaming service (or as it prefers to phrase it: "Four out of five Rugby World Cup customers did not contact Spark Sport's help channels.")

Two-thirds of the help queries were in the first 10 days of the tournament.


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Spark says fewer than 1 per cent of customers had complex queries (defined as those that took more than four interactions to resolve). Spark supplied over 500 replacement devices free of charge and completed over 150 home visits "nearly all of which solved customers' issues", Spark says.

192,000 subs

By the end of the tournament, "New Zealanders had taken up just over 200,000 RWC subscriptions. This includes 192,000 active Tournament Passes (after cancellations have been taken into account) plus a number of fans that purchased one or more match passes," Spark says.

Spark has never given any public target, so we can't say how that measures up to its inhouse goals. At one point, the telco did say it was working with partners to ensure up to 500,000 simultaneous streams could be delivered, but also said that figure allowed for some headroom.

Spark says overall it served six million hours of World Cup action, around one million of which was on-demand.

A rematch

No amount of carping tweets about the media by former CEO Simon Moutter could change the fact that the NZ-South Africa problems were a disaster. It was Spark Sport's first big moment in the spotlight and it dropped the ball.

From the moment TVNZ was given free coverage at half time, any chance Spark had of securing the next Sanzaar contract was gone.

Spark failed to properly manage its content delivery partner, one telco exec told the Herald.


And it was a known issue that many unfamiliar with streaming were likely to leave sign-ups to the last minute.

Spark did encourage subscribers to stream the Japan-South Africa warmup came to check their setups were okay. But it needed to do more - much more - to encourage middle New Zealand to get ready. It should have contrived more warmup events. Obviously, the RWC build-up schedule was out of its control but it could have, say, connived to have the team-naming Spark Sport exclusive, for example.

Anyhow, having grinned and beared it through the RWC and, after some tears, force-marched a section of middle New Zealand into the world of streaming, it would be a shame for Spark to waste that effort. And it hasn't, immediately grabbing domestic cricket and an aggressive real-time highlights international cricket rights to its portfolio.

We'll get more of a feel for the future when Spark delivers its FY2020 interim result in February, which it says will contain information about the costs of its foray into streaming. It'll be interesting to see how investors react.

But it also remains true that Spark is many times the size of Sky, and if things go relatively well for Spark Sport over the next couple of years, it's likely to gear up for a bid for the next Rugby World Cup, and likely the next Sanzaar contract.

Industry scuttlebutt holds that Spark paid around $13m for 2019 Rugby World Cup rights - relative chump change compared to the what Sky paid for its new five-year Sanzaar: a cash sum (said to be $400m) plus giving up 5 per cent of its shares.