Spark has won the rights to the English Premier League. It will have New Zealand exclusive rights to the football competition from the start of the 2019–20 season for three years until May 2022. It also has the local rights to Manchester United TV.

The company says it plans to wrap the two football deals into a new standalone sports media business. Spark already has the rights to next year’s Rugby World Cup. 

English Premier League football fans are well used to watching games using streaming. It was the first major sporting property to be picked up by a digital organisation. That was Coliseum Sports Media which had the rights from 2013 to 2016. Spark worked in a partnership with Coliseum before BeIn Sport won the rights. 

In a media statement Spark managing director Simon Moutter say his company developed its plan after looking at overseas sports content media moves.

He says: “We’ve carefully considered the different models and will be looking to replicate the good things other businesses have done and learn from the challenges they’ve had — all the while thinking carefully about how sports media sits in a New Zealand context”. 

Spark says it will launch its own sport ‘platform’ early in 2019 and will annouce pricing and package deals closer to the launch. 

Spark hired Jeff Latch to head the Spark Sport operation. He will oversee buying more content rights and will take charge of the ‘platform’. Latch was previously director of content at TVNZ. In that role he was in charge of buying content, including sport. Spark is partnering with TVNZ for the Rugby World Cup project. 

Latch says Spark will work with a specialist sports-streaming company. He says the platform used will be different from the one used by Spark’s Lightbox service. 

He also said Spark intends its sports media operation to work as a standalone business and not be used merely as a way to woo broadband or mobile customers. To a degree this is what Spark has done with Lightbox.