With the most anticipated sporting event of the year approaching fast, many New Zealanders are asking the same question—will Spark Sport hold up? Although Spark Sport is still ironing out kinks, there is widespread uncertainty throughout the pubs, clubs, and tavern industry, that the streaming quality and reliability will not cope with the expected demand. Furthermore, there seems to be good reason to have the smallest of doubts, as glitches have already interrupted various sporting events over the last few months, including the U20 New Zealand versus Scotland rugby match in early June, the Formula One, and hockey coverage at various times.
However, by the end of June, Spark Sport has streamed over 300 events, or 10,000 hours of content, without significant issue. Nevertheless, Spark is encouraging people that are intending to watch the World Cup to make sure that their connection is strong enough, and their devices are streaming ready.
Spark has already been through several iterations of tests and bug fix phases. The first phase included developing the product to a standard high enough for market, and making sure that they could deliver on core platform capability and launch the initial range of apps. The second phase that will run to mid-July has been the ironing out of live bug fixes, adding additional functionality, and launching the app on a broader range of devices. At the end of this phase, Spark Sport will leave beta, and be theoretically ready to host the Rugby World Cup. The final stage will include the testing of automation, operational readiness and finally, the change lockdown—the final nod to the finished product.
Although there may be concern as bars near the World Cup—an event that is sure to bring a spike in revenue—there is also concern from Spark in regards to the capabilities of people or venues that have not streamed before. Jeff Latch, head of Spark Sport, said, “We’re not concerned about those people who already stream regularly: it’s easy for regular streamers to get set up with Spark Sport. But we do want to encourage those who are not familiar with streaming services to get set up now. We want to be very clear that people shouldn’t wait until the tournament starts, as it’ll be a lot more difficult to help them at the stage.”
So how have bars around the country been preparing? Mike Jennings, director at Front Row Hospitality said their venues completed the work nice and early. “Our AV set up had to be adjusted a little to accommodate the HD streaming, but we are all set now.” Arvind Sharma, general manager at The Fox Sporting Bar, said, “We are getting uncapped fibre to stream the World Cup.” Carrying on, he reassured his confidence in the streaming platform, “Internet is the future, and Spark has taken its step forward. Spark will not flop, and it will remain the major platform for us.”
Regardless of Spark’s success, investing in this sort of equipment and technology is expensive. Audio/visual/internet technology upgrades do not come cheap, and the shift towards streaming has meant that bars not making the switch will be left in the dark. Whether venues like it or not, the switch to Spark Sport and live streaming seems to be the only option as we near the World Cup. Having said that, Spark Sport is confident, and everyone is aware of the uproar it would cause should the system fail.