Spark's Rugby World Cup promises falling apart

Spark’s Rugby World Cup tournament pass goes on sale this week, but earlier pledges to work with New Zealand ISPs on a wholesale offer are yet to be seen.

When Spark bought the rights for RWC games in April 2018 it said it would be “reaching out to other network operators and providers to see how we can optimise the viewing experience for their customers”. It has also advised competitors they would be able to wholesale the content to their customers.

2degrees Chief Executive Stewart Sherriff says Spark’s assurances that other ISPs would gain wholesale access to the Rugby World Cup encouraged it to bring forward investments in network capacity, with many other ISPs doing so too.

“Although Spark has been very active in bringing ISPs together to ensure they invest to make Spark’s branded product look good when the tournament starts in September, it’s been a game of delay when it comes to wholesaling”, says Mr Sherriff.

On April 16, Spark announced its RWC tournament pass pricing would be available from May 1 with a ‘super early bird’ price of $59.99 that increased to $79.99 in June. ISPs were told they wouldn’t be allowed to resell the tournament pass until June and that they’d need to wait until April 24 for more details.

As of last week, the date for more information was pushed out until early May – after the Spark retail service is set to launch.

Mr Sherriff says Spark’s treatment of ISPs is the kind of behaviour Spark warned about when vigorously opposing the proposed Sky Vodafone merger in February 2017.

Spark warned about the need for “an effective wholesale regime to prevent the monopoly shifting into another market” and that the merger should be declined so Sky would be “highly incentivised to work with all broadband companies to produce a range of sporting products and bundles that can be delivered in a new way across everyone’s services”.

“Since then, Spark has acquired the monopoly for Rugby World Cup content. Right now, it is promoting its low-price tournament pass - collecting contact details from customers of the same ISPs that invested to deliver a smooth Rugby World Cup,” says Mr Sherriff.

“The monopoly lives on.”