Spark Sport Experience

With only a few weeks to go before the Rugby World Cup there is increasing interest in Spark Sport, the streaming platform to be used to deliver the games to many New Zealanders. I’ve been using Spark Sport since it was first released and this is a quick summary of my experiences in order to help those punters with what to expect and getting set up from a users’ perspective.

Connection Experience – Make sure you can get the fastest connection available. In NZ this is unlimited Gigabit fibre. You don’t need Gigabit fibre however Fibre 100 (100 mega bits per second) will work well. VDSL should be OK however I’d be cautious with expecting anything less than that, such as ADSL, to provide a smooth experience. You can use your mobile on 4G (I’ve tested an iPhone 8) however watch out for that data usage on your plan and it could hit the battery hard. You do not need to have a Spark internet connection, any provider of good repute will do.

Computer Experience – My trusty old (almost 10 years) Dell Latitude will not stream the content. Nabbing one of the family Apple Macbook Air 1.6Ghz 4GB or 8GB of Ram machines is fine. Mirroring to the old Apple TV did not work which is a shame as watching sport on a small screen is not good and I don’t have a smart TV. Speaking of Smart TVs, there is notifications coming out every few weeks about another brand getting the Spark Sport app which is good as it will make things easier to use.

Watching Sport (Formula 1) – Things got off to a rocky start. The service did not perform well for the Australian GP (live), had glitches in Bahrain (delayed) and one F2 race was completely missing. China (live) was a bit better. Since then there has been less and less issues. Due to the time zones of the live races, I watch them almost all delayed. This has the advantage of pausing or skipping ahead (not so easy as it should be). Even watching delayed coverage has some querks where the picture will go blurry for no reason for a minute or two and then clear up. That appears to be the only issue remaining for me. One thing I learnt to do is to look at the bottom of the screen to see how far along in time I was then refresh the page and jump forward. Improvements have been constant and noticed. Good.

Summary of what you need to do:

  • Get the fastest internet connection you can (tricky for rural folk)
  • Have a device with enough grunt
  • Be emotionally prepared for a glitch or two.
  • Try the Spark Sport free trial to check that everything is order.

The Main Issue Spark Sport May Have that You Can’t Do Anything About

Folks that are already watching TV or movies on their device are often doing so with content that is not live. With the likes of Amazon and Netflicks there is servers all over the world that hold the content. There isn’t a ton of people all watching the same thing at the same time and there isn’t any ramification of a delay in what is being shown Live sport doesn’t work like that. Everyone wants to see the same thing at the same time.

The owners of Formula One have been trying for two years to solve this issue for their own channel and so far have not got it sorted. How the Rugby World Cup will go is anyone’s guess. The best article I have found that explains this challenge is a feature from Max Noble on Pitpass.com:

Some hiccups can happen, and excessive demand can cause network or server congestion that result in poor viewing or a loss of service, but these are generally not too difficult when one can pre-distribute the content to many servers located closely to the local viewing audience.

It is by definition live, and therefore cannot be distributed to many servers ahead of time. Using another go-to example of mine, the Mayweather Pacquiao fight. 4.5 million global viewers. That was the entire paying audience. If one takes 4.5 million and multiplies by 2.5MB/Sec one has a grand total of 112,500GB/Sec. In simple terms we are trying to get Niagara Falls to fit through a pipe around the size of a Starbucks coffee cup. Folks we are going to have some spillage

I take my hat off to Spark for giving folks another choice in how to watch sport. I really want their solution to work and hopefully they will do everything in their power to make it a success. Customers need to play their part too in getting the best connection and gear they can.

Link to Spark Sport

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