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Spark Sport wins broadcast rights to NZ Cricket fixtures

Spark Sport says it has won the broadcast rights to NZ Cricket fixtures from April 2020 with TVNZ as its free-to-air partner.

The six-year deal allows it to exclusively broadcast all matches played by the Black Caps and White Ferns in New Zealand.

The matches will be played on its Spark Sport platform, while TVNZ will air some of the T-20 and Super Smash matches on its free-to-air-channels.

The price for the rights was not disclosed, but Spark chief executive Jolie Hodson said the deal strengthened its position in the sport streaming market.

"Cricket is an iconic sport that has continued to innovate," she said.

"So we're excited to announce this new partnership with New Zealand Cricket, one that cements our place as a significant player in New Zealand's sports viewing landscape.

"This partnership with New Zealand Cricket is another major step towards Spark's strategy of building a profitable sports media business."

New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said the deal was ground-breaking because it would cater for future demand.

"This is a deal which future-proofs the whole of cricket in New Zealand,"  White said.

"Live streaming is the future. It is timely that we make this move now, at a time when more New Zealanders than ever - and especially young Kiwis, consume their sports content through digital devices."

In a written statement, Sky said it had held the cricket rights since 1995.

"New Zealand Cricket has chosen a different path from 2020 and we wish them well," the statement said.

"While we would have liked to retain the local NZ Cricket rights from next season, we will continue to offer some of the best cricket the world has to offer, including exciting international fixtures involving the Black Caps on tour."

It retained a partnership with Cricket Australia, which gave it the rights to broadcast Black Cap tours until 2021, and all international matches.

Spark Sport has run into trouble with the streaming of this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan, after it nabbed the rights from Sky Network Television last year.

Sky was doubling down on sport content, with the introduction of a refreshed sport streaming app earlier this year.

It announced it was bidding for the rugby Sanzaar rights for more than $235 million last month.

Sky chief executive Martin Stewart previously said it would send anyone home broke who tried to outbid it for sport content rights.

Spark hit major problems early in the RWC, after its streaming service dropped out for some subscribers during the critical match between the All Blacks and the Springboks.

At the time Spark became so concerned about the quality of its feed that it decided to simulcast the match on TVNZ's free-to-air channel, Duke.

Many incensed viewers took to social media posting photos of choppy pixelated images, slow connections and error messages from Spark Sport.

It blamed the configuration of the signal coming out of the US for the problems.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters was among those who complained that Spark had dropped the ball when it most mattered.

Since then, Spark Sport has defended its streaming service saying it has performed well.

The company said lag and connection dropouts that some customers were reporting weren't related to their Spark Sport platform and blamed device or in-home set-up issues.

This article was originally published on RNZ and re-published with permission.

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