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Spark grabs NZ rights to screen English Premier League football

NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 14 August 2018, 10:14AM
The new deal adds to Spark's growing sports portfolio. Photo / Getty Images
The new deal adds to Spark's growing sports portfolio. Photo / Getty Images

Spark announced today that it has secured the exclusive rights to the English Premier League for three years.

The deal, running from August 2019 to May 2022, adds to Spark's growing sports portfolio, which already includes the Rugby World Cup 2019 and Women's Rugby World Cup 2021.

In addition to the Premier League rights, Spark has also snapped up the rights to Manchester United TV, a channel owned an operated by the illustrious football club.

Premier League and MUTV will be offered on a subscription basis over Spark's sport platform, which will launch by early 2019.

The cost of viewing the content is yet to be announced, with Spark saying details will be released closer to launch.

The New Zealand rights for 2016-2019 were secured by beIN sports, a subsidiary of the Al Jazeera network.

However, beIN Sports' main focus was setting up an Asia-Pacific Premier League hub, with New Zealand just a small link in the coverage to the region. But beIN failed to secure some big markets, including Australia, and ended up coming to an agreement with Sky to use their platform. This development, in turn, means that Sky will lose its hold on another important piece of sports content come 2019.

Spark managing director Simon Moutter said the telco plans to play a key role in shifting the way Kiwis access their sports content.

"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.

Moutter said Spark has been keeping a close eye on the international market to find a commercial model that will work here.

"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," he said.

Taking charge of the rollout of the new service is newly appointed head of Spark Sport Jeff Latch, who previously served as a senior executive at TVNZ.

Speaking about Spark's move into sports media, Latch said he believed Spark would be able to deliver a good experience to customers.

"It will offer a whole lot more freedom when it comes to what you watch, where you watch and, with Kiwis now owning more than 5 million internet-capable devices, what you watch it on," Latch said.

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

Spark has a history with the Premier League, having partnered with Coliseum Sports Media (first as marketing partner and then as joint venture partner) to claim the rights between 2013 and 2016.

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