Spark’s streaming chops and its year of planning are on the line from tonight, as the Rugby World Cup finally gets underway.
Months of preparation will be on show, and rugby fans have been rushing to make sure they’re ready.
Retailer Noel Leeming said there has been a dramatic surge in sales compared with the 2015 World Cup, with the big driver being people getting ready for sports streaming.
“The last couple of weeks especially have seen a huge spike in sales across a couple of areas, particularly TVs,” Noel Leeming merchandise executive general manager Jason Bell told 1 NEWS.
“Also streaming devices, so things like Chromecasts and Apple TV – in fact they’ve more than doubled in sales,” he said.
Spark Sport is showing all matches live, and TVNZ is screening select matches free-to-air.
When the announcement was made last year, Spark said it wanted to “help shape the future of sports watching by New Zealanders” and that the “power of technology” would give viewers more choices.
Viewers though have often taken to social media complaining of problems in previous streams.
In one of its recent updates, the telco said it was dedicated to delivering a high-quality viewing experience and had “listened to customer feedback over the past few weeks”.
“We know the New Zealand public will be watching our performance closely,” it said last month.
Spark refused interview requests ahead of today’s Rugby World Cup launch, saying “all hands were on deck” its spokesman was busy with the team doubling down on getting everything ready for kick-off.
There are back-up plans for TVNZ’s Duke channel to quickly take over showing any games if there are problems with Spark Sport’s streaming.
It’s not clear how that will be decided.
“If there were to be a widespread and significant issue stopping viewers from accessing a match directly from Spark Sport, Rugby World Cup matches would be switched to live broadcast on TVNZ DUKE at a few minutes’ notice.
“While we’re absolutely not expecting any issues with our platform, we want New Zealanders to have confidence that we’ve thought through all eventualities,” it said in a statement.
Spark's first big test will come when they exclusively livestream the All Blacks vs South Africa tomorrow night.
The opening ceremony is at 9.20pm and Japan v Russia is at 10pm on TVNZ 1 tonight.
Frequently asked questions on TVNZ’s involvement can be found here.
WHO IS SHOWING WHAT:
Spark Sport is showing all 48 matches live – it will stream every match as they happen and on-demand on Spark Sport.
TVNZ 1 is showing 12 matches, including delayed coverage of all New Zealand pool matches and quarter final with live coverage of the semi finals and final.
TVNZ 1 will have in-depth news coverage – 1 NEWS, Seven Sharp and Te Karere have reporting teams on the ground in Japan.