Rugby World Cup 2019: Spark Sport 'very disappointed' over streaming failures during All Blacks test

Spark Sport is "very disappointed" after coverage of the All Blacks Rugby World Cup opener against the Springboks was shifted to TVNZ Duke after its streaming services failed for many viewers. 

Furious viewers took to social media midway through the first half to slam the quality of the coverage, with more than 132,000 fans tuning in to watch the test match. 

Issues fans incurred included brief, intermittent periods of reduced video quality such as pixelation and buffering.  

Spark explained its decision to move the game to free-to-air TV, insisting that the issue was not related to New Zealand broadband capacity.

"Midway through the first half we identified that the quality of the video stream was fluctuating for some customers," the company said in a statement.

"We were uncomfortable at the quality of the experience our customers were getting and, as we always said we would, we moved quickly to provide them with an alternative means of watching the match. 

"We had prior established procedures with our partner TVNZ to enable live, free-to-air coverage at short notice."

Spark CEO, Jolie Hodson added: "We are very disappointed that some New Zealanders did not get the experience they deserved last night during such an important match. 

"We were uncomfortable at the quality of the experience our customers were getting and, as we always said we would, we moved quickly to provide them with an alternative means of watching the match. 

"We had prior established procedures with our partner TVNZ to enable live, free-to-air coverage at short notice."

Spark CEO, Jolie Hodson added: "We are very disappointed that some New Zealanders did not get the experience they deserved last night during such an important match. 

"Making a quick decision to give them an alternative means to watch the All Blacks was the right thing to do. 

"We apologise to all impacted customers and we will be working with our partners to rectify what happened and ensure the rest of the tournament goes well."

Spark said the root cause of the video streaming issue is still being investigated. 

And fans without Sky, a Spark Sport account or Freeview were left without any way to watch the game.

"Some friends of mine don't have a TV hooked up to Freeview so were gonna use the live stream of TVNZ1 OnDemand to watch the delayed coverage of the game," one fan told us. "Instead, they were met with the below message."

A screen capture from the TVNZ OnDemand page.
A screen capture from the TVNZ OnDemand page. Photo credit: TVNZ OnDemand

The message broadcast to would-be viewers said "This match it not available on TVNZ OnDemand, TVNZ.co.nz or Freeview SmartVU."

"So basically, if you don’t have Freeview or Spark Sport you can’t even watch the delayed coverage online," the fan said.

On Friday, a small percentage of viewers also experienced problems for the opening match between hosts Japan and Russia - with reports of freezing on an image while the audio continued to play, other complained of lagging and glitching. 

Spark also came under some heat earlier that day when some customers received letters saying their broadband wasn't up to scratch, and they'd have to find alternative ways to watch the opening match.

Despite the drama, the All Blacks did enough on the field to get the job done, beating their old rivals 23-13 in Yokohama.  

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