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Spark doubles down on sports, securing new rights and promising a new platform

Spark doubles down on sports, securing new rights and promising a new platform

New platform for sports subscription service will launch next year

Simon Moutter (Spark)

Simon Moutter (Spark)

Spark has secured the exclusive rights to more sports events which it plans to make available through a new subscription platform launching next year.

The New Zealand telecommunications giant has secured exclusive new broadcast rights to English Premier League football and Manchester United TV (MUTV) – with more sports content announcements to come – expanding the provider's media plays significantly.

The football rights follow Spark securing rights to the Rugby World Cup 2019 and Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 in April.

Spark managing director Simon Moutter said subscription content is a potential future source of revenue and profit growth for the company.

Specifically, Spark has secured the rights to three seasons of Premier League from August 2019 through to May 2022 - including every match live and on-demand, as well as some related content such as packaged highlights.

MUTV, which is owned and operated by Manchester United football club, offers a range of content related to the club - including interviews with players and staff, live major reserve and academy games, "classic" matches and all of the team's pre-season friendly matches.

Moutter said Spark intends to be a key player in the evolving sports media landscape and create a "viable, future-focussed sports media business" that meets consumers’ desire for choice and flexibility.

“We are setting out to transform the way sport is distributed and viewed in New Zealand - in the same way general entertainment viewing has been transformed by the likes of Lightbox, Netflix and YouTube," he said.

“However, we continue to be disciplined when it comes to investments of this nature, with our considered moves into the area of sports content focused on a package of rights that we’re confident we can commercialise."

Moutter also announced the appointment of Jeff Latch to head Spark Sport, leading the acquisition of content rights and delivery of Spark’s sports platform.

As a former director of content at TVNZ, where he was responsible for securing sports and other content, Latch said the new service will offer a lot more freedom when it comes to what Kiwis watch and where they watch it.

"We’re confident once Kiwis experience sports streaming they’ll never go back to traditional television viewing alone," Latch said.

While pricing won’t be revealed until closer to launch, Latch said he is confident it will offer great value and be an attractive offer for New Zealand sports fans.

Latch said Spark will be partnering with a specialist sports-streaming platform provider to deliver its content.

"We can’t reveal details today as we are still in negotiations, but we can confirm Spark will stream its sports content from a specialist platform provider, with extensive experience streaming live sports events," Latch added.

"This platform will be different to the one we currently use for Lightbox. By partnering with a specialist in the sports content space, we will deliver Kiwis a world-class sports-viewing experience."

Latch said that, as announced in April, Rugby World Cup 2019 will be offered as a standalone offering – with people able to choose from different options, including a tournament pass and individual games passes.

Moutter said the move is not about using sports content simply as an acquisition or retention tool for broadband or mobile base customers.

“We’ve developed our strategic approach after spending a lot of time looking at other players in the sports content market in overseas markets," he added.

"We’ve carefully considered the different models and will be looking to replicate the good things other businesses have done and learn from the challenges they’ve had – all the while thinking carefully about how sports media fits in a New Zealand context."


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