Did Spark Sport's Formula 1 coverage pass the test?
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Spark Sport passed its first major test over the weekend, streaming the Melbourne Grand Prix live without any major glitches.
Mid-way through raceday, I put out a shoutout on social media to see how Spark Sport users were faring with the services Apple and Android apps or viewing via spartsport.co.nz.
Spark MD Simon Moutter chirped back, "I'm watching on my iPad Pro Chris and it's fan-bloody-tastic. Admittedly I'm saying so with a quiet sense of relief."
The Spark boss later said, "Now casting to big screen via Apple TV and it's terrific as well."
Moutter was somewhat invested in the outcome, of course, but I only experienced one brief drop-out in coverage. Otherwise, the build-up and the race streamed smoothly in high definition on my iPhone and on a laptop running Windows 10.
Others had mostly positive experiences too (see a section of tweets below). Those who had issues were generally those trying to run Spark Sport on hardware that it doesn't officially support yet (the telco promises its app will be on an increasingly broad range of platforms in the weeks and months ahead).
There were a couple of issues noted.
One was that a static Sky logo appeared onscreen each time Sky UK (from whom Spark was drawing its video feed) went to an ad break. The first time this happened, I wasn't sure what was up. Was there an outage? Spark says at the moment, it's unable to put up a line to let people know there's an ad break on. Hopefully it can engineer something.
Another was that it wasn't quite live. TVNZ's Duke channel - which was broadcasting the race as a fallback - was about half a minute ahead. Disparities in timing are common in this areas, as you'll know if, say, you've ever compared beIN Sports' stream to the beIN channels on Sky - but the lag did irk a few people. Still, if that's the biggest issue Spark faces, I'm sure they'll be very relieved.
Of course, Sunday was a relatively modest test for Spark Sport, and its experienced US streaming technology partner iStreamPlanet.
No Grand Prix draws an All Blacks-level audience, let alone one when most of the nation's attention was, of course, elsewhere (even Moutter, for obvious reasons, had most of his attention on ongoing efforts to pressure social media sites and block rogue sites).
It's one thing to livestream a Grand Prix, but quite another to handle the crush as millions pile on for a key World Cup game.
And questions still linger about how Spark will cater to Kiwis without good enough broadband for streaming video, however good its app.
Still, it passed. And while Spark's head of sport Jeff Latch has yet to say if he's confident he could abandon the TVNZ backup for the next Grand Prix (Bahrain on March 30), indications are he must be close to making that call.
- NZ Herald