Emerging Tech, Data & Media , OTT & Digital

Spark Sport taps TVNZ’s AR tech for Rugby World Cup production

New Zealand OTT service and FTA broadcaster to share in pre and post-match output.

by Steven Impey

Spark Sport taps TVNZ’s AR tech for Rugby World Cup production

Spark Sport, the New Zealand-based streaming service launched in March, is planning to implement augmented reality (AR) into its platform for the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The over-the-top (OTT) sports service will leverage the technology from domestic free-to-air (FTA) broadcaster TVNZ, with whom Spark shares a content partnership, during the tournament including for its studio broadcast based at TVNZ headquarters in Auckland.

TVNZ, which has rights to show 12 live matches on its TVNZ 1 channel as well as delayed coverage from all of New Zealand’s pool matches, has agreed to share its AR capabilities as part of jointly composed pre-game, half-time and post-game productions.

Melodie Robinson, TVNZ’s general manager for sport and events, said: “We’ve brought in software technology, combined with TVNZ’s augmented reality capabilities that will allow us to analyse rugby to a level that hasn’t been seen in this country before.

“Add to that we’ll be balancing the rugby conversation and former players by sprinkling through entertainment stars that you wouldn’t usually see on a rugby broadcast. We think it’s an exciting combination that will bring Kiwis all the exhilaration of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Tokyo into living rooms around the country.”

Spark Sports revealed its pricing structure for the tournament in April, with the most premium package for the Rugby World Cup capped at NZ$89.99 (US$60.75). That fee falls outside of the service’s regular NZ$19.99 (US$13.73) subscription.

At the time of revealing its subscription plan for the tournament, Spark Sport’s director Jeff Latch also confirmed that some rural customers would not be able to access the streaming service during its coverage of the Rugby World Cup due to a lack of ultra-fast broadband.

To allay concerns, the Spark-owned operation devised a contingency plan that would see its live broadcasts switch to the TVNZ Duke streaming service in the event of ‘a widespread and significant issue’.

In Spark’s latest statement ahead of the tournament, Latch added: “We’re confident that rugby fans will be impressed by the huge range of content that we’re creating to support what’s shaping up to be an incredibly exciting tournament.”

In July, Spark Sport announced that it had added the OTT service to additional streaming devices including Panasonic smart TVs and Sony Android TVs issued since 2017, as well as Freeview A2 Recorders and Freeview Smart VU streaming devices.

At the time of its launch, the Spark Sport platform was available via its digital platforms, as well as iOS and Android devices, Samsung Smart TVs, Apple TV 4K or Apple TV HD, and Google Chromecast.