Spark and Sky Television have announced an unexpected partnership, setting up a new channel exclusive to hospitality businesses specifically for the rugby world cup.
For a one-off payment, commercial customers including bars, restaurants, and hotels will be able to watch all 48 Rugby World Cup matches through an existing Sky decoder, which does not rely on an internet connection like a Spark Sport subscription. Spark will still retain all revenue generated by the channel.
The announcement came over three months after Spark outbid Sky for the Rugby World Cup broadcasting rights, and less than two months before the first game between Japan and Russia on September 20. The Spark Sport streaming service will only be available online, though 12 games will be broadcast on TVNZ – seven live and five with a one-hour delay.
Ellie Cross, senior communications partner for Spark, told Hotel Magazine the company is still backing its streaming service. “We have tested our solution in many different environments successfully, including bars, pubs, hotel communal areas, hotel rooms, gyms, and offices.”
Cross said that the deal was announced as soon as it was struck, and from the company’s perspective the announcement was not too late. “Customers who have chosen to invest in setting up for streaming will be well set up for the future, as more and more sport will be streamed in future,” she argued. “If customers have purchased a Spark Sport Tournament Pass, but do want to show the matches on Sky, then they can contact our customer service team for a refund.”
Spark Sport executive lead David Chalmers said the decision to partner with Sky was not an admittance of defeat. “After testing in a wide range of commercial environments, we are confident in the Spark Sport streaming service that we are making available for commercial premises," he said.
"But we also wanted to provide an alternative option for venues that would prefer to use their existing infrastructure, particularly for those locations without streaming-ready broadband connectivity.”
Sky strategic partnership lead Sophie Moloney spoke of the company’s satisfaction with the Spark partnership. “We are pleased to be able to work together with Spark to deliver this alternative access option for our commercial customers, including those in rural areas who do not yet have access to fast enough broadband.”