After a solid performance with the Melbourne Grand Prix on March 17, Spark Sport decided to stream the second race of the Formula One season without a simulcast on TVNZ's Duke as a fall-back.
The livestream of the race was successful, but the ondemand versions of the final practice session and the prequalifying race stalled with error messages - which have now been resolved.
A Spark Sport spokesman said this morning, "The disruptions to normal viewing that Formula One fans experienced stemmed from process and procedural issues in deploying content correctly to the platform. Although the Grand Prix streamed successfully, we understand how disruptive this experience would have been for Formula One fans, so are planning a full review of the weekend's issues with our platform provider [US company iStreamPlanet]."
Translation: there were no technical foul-ups, but there was some confusion and human error.
Some fans took to social media to lash Spark Sport for its Bahrain wobbles, with some saying it had been too slow to update its Facebook page with an explanation.
On Twitter, one user offered this cruel gif:
Good analogy. SparkSport’s service... pic.twitter.com/jQDc1EjzBF— Dave Withell (@DWithell) March 30, 2019
Robin Capper replied, "Except the whole of that gif plays reliably and does not have authentication errors."
And Spark Sport offered, "We will take that burn, Robin."
There was also a problem with Apple TVs, with users told to reset their devices to resolve it.
With a modest 9000 or so subscribers, it's doable for Spark to troubleshoot the inevitable glitches caused by Apple software updates, poorly setup home wi-fi and the like.
The trick will be to do it once hundreds of thousands pile in for the Rugby World Cup in September, and the traffic load and call centre pressure goes on.
But while F1 fans might be frustrated at being the guinea pigs, rugby fans can take solace that Spark still has a while - or, at least 171 days - to get its act together before the RWC.
"We are finding that the platform and Spark Sport team are learning a huge amount in these early days in terms of working together, which should put us in good stead for the future, once we come out of beta [the test phase] and are fully launched," the spokeswoman said this morning.
Spark Sport costs $20/month, covering all the sports in Spark's stable - bar the RWC, for which pricing has yet to be announced. You don't have to be a Spark customer to join.
One thing that won't change, is that UFB fibre is the best way to watch a live-streamed sports event, especially if you plan it to stream it to a big screen during a busy time - and Chorus only has limited capacity to hook up homes between now and September, meaning hundreds of thousands will miss out. More on that here.
Spark looks for Lightbox partner
Last Friday, Spark said it was looking for a partner for its entertainment service Lightbox, which operates separately from Spark Sport.
I'd suggest Spark go one further and offload Lightbox altogether.
It's impossible to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon's Prime Video in an entertainment market that's going global. Competing against Sky TV in sport - especially local sport - will be tough but doable.
Spark says it has 355,000 users of Lightbox, but won't say how many are its own broadband customers, who get the service thrown in for free.