Spark Sport and SKY have announced a partnership that will allow commercial premises access to the Rugby World Cup 2019 games through their existing SKY decoder. This surprise partnership comes just months out from the start of the Rugby World Cup in Japan, set to start on September 20th.

Although Spark Sport’s initial offers are still standing where premises can purchase streaming rights to the games through the Spark Sport app, this new partnership allows venues an alternative. Commercial customers can buy access to a Spark Sport Rugby World Cup pop-up channel through SKY, where all 48 games will be covered live. Despite the rates being confidential, commercial customers are told that they will reflect the quality and scale of the event.

“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,” said David Chalmers, executive lead for Spark Sport. “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.” Chalmers also said that the new partnership is not an admittance of defeat for Spark, where speculations had doubted their preparedness for the World Cup from the outset.

“This partnership with SKY means that commercial businesses which already have SKY set up in their premises have options for how they screen the tournament, to ensure that as many commercial premises around New Zealand as possible can show the Rugby World cup in its entirety.”

“Watching the Rugby World Cup is a special activity for many New Zealanders, and a big part of the sports calendar for pubs and clubs throughout the country,” said Sophie Moloney, SKY’s strategic partnerships lead. “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 don’t yet have access to fast enough broadband.”

In preparation for the Rugby World Cup, many venues have already begun the installation of improved internet connections and audio/visual equipment, something that perhaps they wouldn’t have done should this deal have been struck earlier. Ellie Cross, corporate relations partner for Spark, said, “We announced this deal as soon as it was struck, but this isn’t late from our perspective. 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.”

“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,” continued Cross. “Fundamentally, we see this new distribution channel as good news for commercial premises such as restaurants and cafés—they now have more choices as to how they show the Rugby World Cup to their customers.”