Spark boss says service to watch Rugby World Cup games 'wasn't good enough'

10:53 am on 23 September 2019

Spark is promising to make changes after its streaming service dropped out for some subscribers during the All Black's first World Cup match.

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Photo: RNZ / Martin Gibson

Viewers across New Zealand using the service complained of choppy pixelated images, slow connections and sometimes no connection at all.

Spark is offering customers refunds and says it will be making changes to improve it's services.

Spark became so concerned about the quality of its feed that it decided the second half of Saturday's crucial match between the All Blacks and the Springboks in Yokohama would be simulcast on TVNZ's free-to-air channel, Duke.

Head of Spark Sport Jeff Latch told Morning Report he's confident there will be no problems with the next match.

He said he unreservedly apologises to all viewers that had quality issues when watching last night's game.

"It wasn't good enough."

But, he says, Spark has now sorted out what went wrong.

"It was basically the configuration of the video signal coming out of the US to New Zealand. Ultimately we own this problem.

He said the configuration has been changed but Spark is still working with the same international partners.

He couldn't say how many people had issues but said 132,000 people were streaming the match when the issues first started and 126,000 people were still streaming it by the end of the match.

"We were miles away from the network capacity for New Zealand (500,000).

"We immediately put an orchestrated campaign out through social media and other media to tell people the second half was a available on Duke and we also ended up putting crawlers across the match on TVNZ as well."

However the banner didn't go up instantly across the bottom of people's screens. "It wasn't certainly too long".

Technology commentator Bill Bennett told Morning Report with such variety in people's experiences, there must be a technical explanation we aren't being told.

When a game gets from the pitch in Japan all the way to your home somewhere in New Zealand, there's a long chain of things that have to happen and the last bit of the chain, the local network worked really well, he said.

"The games are served up in numerous formats, if you're watching on an iPad you'll get something different coming down your line to someone watching on a TV or someone watching on a phone. The delivery adjusts for different speeds and line conditions too."

There's no statistics to know which devices had the best experience, he said.

However, he said Spark's fall-back plan was excellent.

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