Mike's Minute: Spark can't afford to muck up new sports app

Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 12 March 2019, 7:26a.m.


So Spark, the future in some respects of how we view sport, or an increasing amount of it, isn't ready this weekend for Formula One. They bought the rights, but can't deliver it the way they want.

Their app is out, it doesn't work on all devices.

It is the worst possible start to a change in culture - for that is what is needed - given the Rugby World Cup later this year.

This might well be a classic example of theory over reality, technical concepts versus real world experience. They promised last week it was all good, it isn't.

Now I don't wish them ill will, I hope they're spectacularly successful. I hope they are the people who manage to take a nation that's besotted with rugby in particular, and in the sport's most important of years, and transition us from what we know (the telly) to the future, which is basically streaming.

But you would have thought that in this year of vital importance they might have got off the line cleanly, instead of not quite being ready. Because the simple truth of it is, what they're looking to do looks gargantuan, not just technically but psychologically.

Everyone says what they're trying to do is hard. Streaming is full of faults and problems, and this is not a country with cutting edge streaming services. Not a single one of us, whether we know a lot or next to nothing about streaming and tech, says this is simple stuff.

It has a mixture of the unknown of pushing boundaries, and basically pushing our own technical capabilities, and desires. Many rightly or wrongly don't want to know about it, can't get our head around it, or don't see the need to.

The whole experiment starts off with the hard yards of dragging a rugby-mad nation across the technological line, and into a world we didn't necessarily ask to be in.

This weekend they offload the race to TVNZ, their free-to-air partner, and they will be rubbing their hands with glee. The old world free-to-air terrestrial dinosaur able to deliver what the cutting edge trendies down the road can't. How ironic.

Now this is technically a trial for Spark. It's a free "give it a go, see what you think" practice lap. So in that sense, no need to panic. But if you ever want an example of what energises and unites a nation, nothing beats rugby in World Cup year.

And to play with that history, emotion, and cultural connection by offering up something new and edgy, by way of a fan experience, is to take on as big a hurdle as any corporate could ever possibly imagine.

They simply have to have it spot on. The clock is ticking, and week one when the light went green, they stalled the engine.

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