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Spark, Sky New Zealand agree sports deal

New Zealand telco Spark has today (Friday) forged a sports partnership with pay-television broadcaster Sky amid speculation concerning a wider tie-up between the two companies.

From today, Spark customers with an unlimited home broadband plan will be able to purchase Sky’s Fan Pass service at a special rate. Eligible Spark customers can buy a 12-month subscription to Fan Pass for NZ$30 (€17/$21) a month, which compares to the usual cost of NZ$55.99 per month.

The deal is set to give Spark customers access to Sky’s coverage of New Zealand international rugby, football’s forthcoming Fifa World Cup and the domestic ANZ Premiership netball competition.

Fan Pass gives full online access to Sky Sport channels 1 to 4, including highlights on demand. Spark’s acting chief executive for home, mobile and business, Grant McBeath, said: “We’ve heard from many customers that they love the entertainment they get from Lightbox and Netflix through their broadband plan, but they also want a bit of sport in their lives. That’s why we’re partnering with Sky to give them a menu of world-class sports viewing at a very reasonable price and over a flexible, digital channel – it’s the perfect solution.”

The agreement comes after Spark last month acquired rights to the 2019 Rugby World Cup, along with a host of other tournaments staged by the sport’s world governing body, World Rugby, replacing Sky in the role.

Speaking to the New Zealand Herald newspaper, a Spark spokesperson said today’s agreement is viewed as a promotional deal at present, but did not rule out a wider partnership being struck.

“There is no deeper, content-sharing deal planned at this stage, and we have had no conversations with Sky about Rugby World Cup or any other content,” the spokesperson said. “Of course, we are always open to considering partnership deals which result in us bringing more to our customers.”

Spark’s increasing sports ambitions come with the broadcast rights to events operated by Sanzaar, the umbrella body for the national rugby unions in Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, up for renewal. Asked if Spark would be among those bidding, the telco wouldn't rule out the possibility.

“We see tournaments like the World Rugby ones announced earlier this year as a good entry point for us into the sports content market,” the spokesperson added. “Our immediate focus is to distribute great sports content to New Zealanders in new and creative ways. We wouldn't rule anything out for the future.”