Spark’s Black Sticks coverage doesn't bode well for RWC

By Te Ao - Māori News

Worries about Spark’s ability to stream live sport deepened yesterday when their coverage of the Black Sticks’ international hockey double header against Australia was delayed due to 'technical issues'.

The initial broadcast of the women’s game didn’t start until well after play was underway, meaning that fans could only follow coverage through the team’s official Twitter feed.  It led to a backlash on social media, with many taking to Twitter and Facebook to express their disappointment.

It means Spark is under more scrutiny than before over what will happen later this year when it is scheduled to bring the Rugby World Cup to New Zealand homes.

The company has faced criticism over a lack of broadband coverage which means that many rural rugby fans will be unable to see fixtures, and growing fears that the network isn’t going through a suitable testing phase.

It also comes a less than a year after Optus Australia’s coverage of the Football World Cup fell apart after only a few days, prompting the tournament to be broadcast on TV channel SBS.

In a statement, Spark admitted the error but assured sports fans that their systems were up to the task.

"The error was at the platform end of things, there were no technical problems. The actual streaming service worked very well once it began - both for the rest of the live women's match and for the men's match that followed." the statement reads.

"This does not impact our position regarding our ability to deliver the Rugby World Cup. The error is something that we will be reviewing intensively with iStreamPlanet to make sure there isn't any repeat for future events."

For the record, the Black Sticks Women probably weren’t upset that no one got to see part of their game, as they were thumped 5-1 by the Australians at North Harbour Hockey Stadium.  Their male counterparts fared better but were still beaten 4-3 in their match.

The teams next play in the inaugural FIH Pro League tournament, held in the UK and the Netherlands in June.