Spark's move into the sports viewing market may have taken another significant step, with the potential acquisition of the English Premier League rights.

The telecommunications giant secured the rights to the 2019 Rugby World Cup earlier this year, and the Herald understands Spark is close to securing the rights to the EPL football, from the start of the 2019-2020 season, for three years.

It means football fans who want to follow the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chris Wood's Burnley, may have to sign up to Spark's service from next year.

If Spark's acquisition is confirmed, it could be viewed as another blow for Sky TV in the sports arena, even though the rights are currently held by beIN sports, who just use a Sky platform to deliver their coverage.

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The subscription-based pay TV network has broadcast the EPL for most of the last two decades, aside from a three-year period when internet sports streamer Coliseum Sports held sway (2013-2016).

Although EPL matches don't attract audiences comparable to Super Rugby or the NRL — partly because of the unfriendly viewing times — they have been a vital part of Sky's portfolio. It's the highest profile football league in the world, that provides tons of coverage across a week, for most of the year.

On the previous occasion Sky lost the EPL rights in 2013 there was a significant reaction in the football community. While some fans enjoyed the varied content provided by Coliseum, others struggled with the technology and New Zealand's notoriously inconsistent internet speeds were also an issue.

The potential Spark deal would continue a pattern in other markets where telecommunications companies have leveraged the EPL to increase their sports content and build their customer base.

In Britain, BT Sport has broadcast some EPL games since 2012, and their coverage has grown significantly since then.

Optus has the broadcast rights in the Australian market, after a US$150 million ($218 million) bid in 2015 took them off Foxtel.

The New Zealand rights for 2016-2019 were secured by beIN sports, a subsidiary of the Al Jazeera network.

However, beIN Sports' main focus was setting up an Asia-Pacific Premier League hub, with New Zealand just a small link in the coverage to the region. But beIN failed to secure some big markets, including Australia, and ended up coming to an agreement with Sky to use their platform.

Spark has previously been a player in this market. In December 2014, they formed a joint venture with Coliseum — Lightbox Sports — and hosted EPL coverage.

When contacted by the Herald a Spark spokesperson said "they couldn't comment on speculation or any potential negotiations".

In response to a query from the Herald, Sky head of sport Richard Last said: "We have not had the EPL rights for five seasons now.

"The rights are currently held by beIN Sports, who deliver them on Sky's platform. We know beIN have the rights for next season. We are not the current rights holders, nor even the next most recent rights holders so really cannot comment any further."