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Spark Sport - Shows promise but can do better

Spark Sport - Shows promise but can do better - The Opinion Compare Rugby World Cup Report Card

Opinion Compare, the New Zealand market research and panel provider, recently completed a follow up study relating to their pre Rugby World Cup survey that received widespread media coverage. The latest study was to gauge the thoughts, perceptions and experiences of New Zealanders in relation to streaming the 2019 Rugby World Cup via Spark Sport. A total of 523 responses were collected between November 7- 10, 2019 of which 86 told us they were customers of Spark Sport.

We asked respondents to rate their viewing experience with Spark Sport for each game of the Rugby World Cup on a 1 to 9 scale, where 1 was ‘poor’ and 9 was ‘excellent.’ We found that their viewing experience tended to improve over time. Just 34% rated the viewing experience as excellent (rated 8 or 9) for the opening All Blacks match against South Africa. This rose to 74% for the England v South Africa Final game.

When asked to provide an open response as to why they rated their perceptions as such, 49% who rated their experience to be good-excellent said it was because most of the time they experienced fine or perfect coverage for most or all of the duration of the game, whereas 34% of those who rated their experience to be not so good noted the coverage to be of poor quality with the streaming lagging or buffering and being ‘pixelated.’

Looking at Spark Sport customers, when asked about what devices they used to stream the Rugby, Smart TV was the most popular, with 52% streaming via this medium, whereas 21% streamed via their mobile phone. Given the late night matches, it may have been more convenient to watch a phone in bed than a TV.

Given the importance of Rugby to New Zealanders, it was obvious the interest that Spark’s performance would raise but unfortunately it was their early failings which attracted widespread attention. 91% had heard about the issues relating to the poor streaming quality from Spark Sport during the World Cup. When asked if their streaming experience would’ve been different had another provider other than Spark offered live streaming of the Rugby World Cup, 18% believed that the problem lay in Spark’s hands, and that another provider would’ve offered a higher quality streaming experience, whereas 29% believed it wasn’t Spark’s issue and any other provider would’ve offered the same streaming quality. 53% were unsure.

Following this, we wanted to gauge how the streaming issues experienced impacted on New Zealanders perceptions around streaming content as a whole. We found that 39% of the population’s perception of streaming became more negative as a result, and just 4% had their perceptions improved. Interestingly though, it appears that the negative press generated around Spark’s issues impacted the general public more so than Spark Sport customers themselves. When looking at the difference between Spark Sport customers and non-customers, only 22% of customers had a more negative perception of streaming as opposed to 42% of non-Spark customers.

Negative press for the brand also dented the population’s confidence in Spark Sport delivering a good streaming experience if they were to host a major sporting event of interest to them in future. On a scale of 1 to 9 where 1 was ‘not at all confident’ and 9 was ‘extremely confident.’ 48% of non-Spark Sport customers have low confidence (rated 1-4), in Spark delivering.

To compound this lack of confidence, just 14% of non-Spark Sport customers indicated a positive reaction to the idea of Spark Sport being given the rights to broadcast another upcoming major sporting event in the future. The ray of light for Spark Sport is that 40% of their customers were likely to have positive reaction to this idea.

However, despite the improvement in the viewing experience over the span of the RWC and the positivity towards any future sporting event being streamed by Spark Sport, just a quarter of customers (25%) said they would continue their Spark Sport subscription post Rugby World Cup compared to 75% who said they would be cancelling their subscription.


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