Spark may offer some attractive early bird prices in its new Sport App, but that won't mean much if rural New Zealand can't watch the Rugby World Cup due to poor broadband performance.
Head of Spark Sport Jeff Latch admitted to The County's Jamie Mackay that not everyone will be able to access the new platform.
"There will be some rural customers who can not get Spark Sport and the Rugby World Cup. That is a fact."
However, the needs of rural rugby fans was "a major driver," in Spark's decision to make sure that all of the All Blacks' pool and knock-out matches were available on TVNZ 1, Latch said.
"That was a big call for us to make and we made it because we wanted to make sure that everyone in New Zealand had the opportunity to see the All Blacks through those pool matches and knock-out matches - plus a number of other major matches in the tournament as well."
Mackay compared Spark's model with Sky Sport, which provided delayed coverage on Prime Sport for those who didn't have a Sky package.
"It's similar but I think where it differs is the fact that we're actually making it far more accessible in a pricing sense than Sky did," said Latch.
Mackay told Latch that since the news broke, he had received texts from those concerned about Spark's Sport App, and read one out for him to respond to:
"Gidday Jamie. I understand you're talking to the guy from Spark shortly. Please let him know this rural rugby fan is pissed off. Anything short of live coverage of the whole tournament is unacceptable. They bought the rights, they have to deliver to every household in New Zealand who want to watch. The delayed coverage announced today is an insult."
Although Latch admitted this was a "fair" point, he said Spark was working to ensure everyone could watch, and there was a plan in place for fans of live games.
"We've also announced today that we're going to allow pubs and clubs around New Zealand to access the Rugby World Cup consumer package at consumer pricing. Which is significantly cheaper than what they would normally have to pay if they were actually watching a major sports event in a pub or a club."
It's not just Spark that has issues with broadband, said Latch, who revealed the company was working with the industry to ensure better conditions for consumers.
"It's an industry issue. It's not just a Spark issue, it's all network providers in New Zealand."
"The industry is absolutely galvanised behind this to try and get this out to as many people as possible."
"We're also exploring options around setting up local community viewing locations for those areas in New Zealand that just can't get it to the house."
Mackay asked if the focus was on keeping prices low, how would Spark make any money off the Sport App?
"The reason we're doing this is we wanted to actually have an event of scale and substance, that could actually bring a whole lot of people in to see Spark Sport - because we think the platform's fantastic and that it's the future for sport delivery in New Zealand."
"There's far more flexibility with streaming than there is in a traditional linear service. It's therefore much better suited for sport I think, for the future."
Mackay pointed out that the average age of a New Zealand sheep and beef farmer was 58, and asked how Spark planned to help out those who may not be as technically savvy as the younger generation.
Latch said there will be "lots of opportunities," for internet service providers, "to actually help people doing this," and Spark had already created videos fronted by sports commentator Scotty Stevenson to help people navigate the platform.
"It's not a new thing ... there's a huge group of the New Zealand population that are comfortable with streaming," said Latch, who added that Spark was "very focused" on educating those who may not be as familiar with the service.
Mackay asked if there delayed coverage matches will be "chocka-full of commercials".
Latch said both Spark Sport and TVNZ One will play the same commercials, however "there will be no commercials cutting into any live play whatsoever," and that any ads will be played during pre-match, half time and post-match.
"Nothing during the game itself. We don't want to miss a second of the action."
Other sports streaming platforms have failed in the past, but Latch was confident Spark Sport wouldn't go the same way as Australian company Optus with its unsuccessful coverage of the FIFA World Cup.
"Where streaming technology is at now is far more advanced ... one of the things we've done which Optus didn't do is we've chosen one of the leading providers of streaming services in the world ... iStreamPlanet."
"They've done Super Bowl where they've got up to 4.3 million households watching at the same time."
"That's one of the reasons why we're really confident that we're going to deliver a really terrific experience in this Rugby World Cup."