Who is the winner in the 2019/2020 football streaming war? Sky TV or Spark?
And the football fan - or at least his or her wallet, is the loser (though ultimately the future is brighter; keep reading).
The $20 a month Spark Sport has nabbed rights to the English Premier League, and will offer all 380 games livestreaming and on-demand when the 2019/20 season kicks off on August 10.
Yet the discerning football fan will also have to sign up to Sky Sport ($31.99 a month, on top of an obligatory $25.99/month Starter plan) - for the pay TV broadcaster has rights to numerous competitions that involve the top English teams, and other top teams, including the FA Cup, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa Cup and the recently added UEFA Nations League and Euro 2020.
And to complicate the picture, while the $19.78/month beIN Sports lost local EPL rights to Spark Sport, the Doha-based streaming service maintains NZ streaming rights to a decent chunk of football including the Carabao Cup (which will feature EPL teams), the EFL Championship (what used to be called Division Two before the Premier League), and top-tier Spanish, French and Italian football.
If you already have a Sky Sport sub (stay with me) then things are simplified. Sky has just announced that under its channel shake-up, Sky Sport 7 will carry beIN content - and that all 12 sports channels in the revamped Sky Sport line-up will be available, in HD, through its upgraded $58.99 (or $38.99/month over six months) Fanpass app.
Rugby fans might be chuckling at the costly and complicated path that soccer followers now have to follow to see all games involving their favourite team.
But they will get their first taste of the splintered new streaming environment over September and October, when Spark Sport will be the only source for seeing every game of the Rugby World Cup live.
And with Spark making it clear it plans to bid for rights to more top-tier rugby, cricket and other codes to keep Spark Sport subscribers loyal beyond the RWC, we're likely to see many sports spread across multiple services over the next few years.
And its possible that NZ Rugby, SANZAAR and other bodies will look the IPL in India and the EPL in the UK, where rights to games within the same competition are auctioned in blocks in an effort to squeeze every last dollar from broadcasters and streamers.
In the UK, for example, you have to subscribe to Sky, BT Sport and Amazon Prime Video to see every Premier League game.
But while the short term is a bit painful, streaming technology is ultimately good. There's now far more content, and far more choice about when you watch it. Compared with what we had just a few years ago, it's a wonderland of content.
And while it whacks your wallet to subscribe to multiple services, Spark Sport head Jeff Latch also points out that Sky's Fanpass cost a get-off-the-grass $99/month before his company's streaming service arrived to disrupt the market. Expect pricing to get keener.
There's still the issue of quality and reliability.
beIN Sports sent Kiwi subscribers into a rage on the last day of the 2018/19 Premier season, when the final 10 games were played simultaneously, and the streaming service stuffed out for every match (fans were later refunded).
Spark Sport already has a bit of English football content live - some highlight shows from last season, previews and pre-season friendlies.
I've been checking out some of the content and the good news is that great - the stream is smooth - including the ball in flight. In a blind test, few could tell the difference with an HD channel on Sky.
The proviso, however, is that it's all on-demand. Livestreaming is trickier, but fingers-crossed.