Spark Sport, Sky and the Future of TV

I said I wouldn’t pay for it and I didn’t. However, as I have just had spine fusion surgery and limited mobility, my daughter’s partner paid the $89 as a get-well gift. So I’m not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

I’m not going to go ballistic about the quality. I have long been a friend of Telecom and over the years they have supported many of my endeavours, and I theirs. My very first job was as a Technical Service Officer at Airedale St Exchange. They gave me outstanding training. I only left because they weren’t innovating.

Telecom was a valued sponsor of the Wireless Forum, they worked closely with me in my time owning Mission Control, which I sold to Rocom and I became part of the biggest Telecom Mobile reseller, promoting mobile data and looking after some 20% of their top accounts, they used my consulting and training services when I owned the NZ Smartphone and PDA Academy,. We collaborated on all sorts of great projects around track and trace, Fleet Management, GPS, mobile apps and more. OK, it’s Spark now and we need them to keep innovating.

It is not easy being an innovator and while I’ve felt dizzy from the blurriness of some of the Rugby World Cup imaging, and been frustrated by things like ad breaks just when an interview starts or losing connection altogether, we desperately need competition and innovation in the world of TV, especially in New Zealand.

The question for me is who the innovators will be, and what innovations they will deliver? It has to be more than just rights to sport. I want to see real innovation.

Remember when we won the America’s Cup and Virtual Spectator made the racing much more exciting AND easy to understand. I still have some of the original software disks. That was innovation. It also made money through subscriptions and morphed into other sports.

I’m not sure what the goal posts are and I doubt many people do right now, but I am worried that so much money is being spent chasing rights to televise sport events, that there is not much left in the coffers to deliver innovation and enhancements. Spark has done a very good job with commentating and expert presenters with cool (but not new) graphics explaining new rules, new tactics and set piece, making us all armchair experts of the modern game, just like Peter Montgomerie did with the yachting.

Like many, I resent having to pay a lot of money to Sky, much of it for services I don’t use and as I said, I wasn’t going to pay for the Spark service (although I might have changed my mind lol). So now technically I’m paying twice. I am quite possibly going to drop both Sky and Spark before too long. I don’t have a never ending budget for entertainment, especially as I will be made redundant from my role at the NZTA from tomorrow.

There has been a lot of talk about updating TV’s which have all sorts of great new features built in. Well I got suckered into that a few years ago. I bought a Panasonic Smart TV with all sorts of bells and whistles, built in apps (half of them don’t work any more) and even 3D, with the expensive battery powered glasses, 4 of them!

Given that Shortland Street was the first program to go widescreen, I was sure they would be innovative and go 3D and that the same would go for wildlife and other TV programming. I was future proofing. Well so I thought. Can you name something that has been broadcast on SKY or free to air programming in 3D? Funny that. How much 4K or 8K TV is being broadcast right now. Those sets look unbelievable in store, but what can you actually see when you get it home?

In England, years ago, they started experimenting with the SKY buttons using features including picking a camera angle for football and interactions such as voting buttons. Imagine being able to pick the direction of a soap drama or reality TV, or engage in voting for contestants in shows like BGT. There was talk at one stage of being able to view multiple screens at once. With 70″ to play with, I’m sure the quality would be acceptable. I do have PIP but then I had that in my DVD player years ago.

What about being able to focus on particular players during a match as well as the main event? That would be relatively easy with player tracking technology already being used by the teams for physio and coaching.

I was in JB HiFi on the weekend prior to my surgery, to spend a gift voucher, unfortunately I couldn’t stand long enough to make a decision on what to buy because of my back pain. I play records, but not enough to pay $50 for an old or current album that I can listen to on Spotify, which by the way isn’t on my TV any more.

What happened to the music industry? Disruptors took over. From Napster to today, while lots of people apparently still listen to the radio, I suspect that the time they spend listening is minimal given they can now listen to podcasts, audiobooks, or pretty much anything they like. I can, and sometimes do, listen to my local radio station from my hometown in Holland while I’m driving. A lot of the local services I listen to on radio, like Time Saver Traffic are no more current or useful than I can hear through IP.

My point is that when the radio industry failed to innovate and the Internet made it possible to listen to just about anything you could imagine, they lost the attention of many of their previously loyal audience.

Today we have many choices that we can stream, in fact the choices are virtually unlimited. There are paid subscription services for Africa. I have Netflix, then there is YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, Amazon, Apple, Lightbox and free to air IP TV from most countries around the world. The major news services like CNN and BBC have their own apps which I can access for free.

Many services offer social viewing which means you can comment, ask questions and much more on IP services, which are mostly not provided by the traditional TV industry. So many people, including myself are looking at pulling the plug on Sky, where I have to pay for so many channels I don’t watch, just to get the few that I do.

More and more people are using overseas IP addresses, giving themselves access to programming from other countries as if they were there and there are many not so legal options today to watch programming such as sport and special interest material that if you know how, you can find. There is probably a YouTube video with step by step instructions.

I do like to support local innovation and like most people, I am happy to pay a little more for what I want, especially if profits are retained in my country. Funny enough, with all the big data that companies like Sky and Spark have access to, they don’t seem to know what customers really want, or if they do, they seem to be cynically ignoring us.

Remember when the taxi industry was strong? How would Uber and others have done if the taxi companies had innovated first? They had all the tools, they had web maps, they had location based services, they had all the technology. They addressed some things like safety and security, but there is nothing that Uber and others are providing, cheaper I might add, that they couldn’t have provided first. They didn’t think they needed to. I call that the BAU disease of inertia, much of it stemming from boardrooms of old school professional directors who don’t add value to the business or understand where international best practice is going.

So when everyone who got sucked into buying a new TV to watch the All Blacks, when most of them only needed a laptop and Chromecast or similar realise they have been conned, and like on my Panasonic TV, the apps stop working in a few years time as the license fees expire. When they can get all sorts of cool programming for free or for a fee they are prepared to pay from newcomers to the industry. When they vote with their feet and brands like Spark and Sky find themselves without enough customers to cover their costs.

Who will they blame? The disloyal customers who now watch NRL Streaming TV, Olympic TV direct from the Games with 156 HD channels, cutting out the middle men? The boards who didn’t understand that the game had changed?

I guess it won’t matter. It’s years since we predicted TV would be A³ – Anytime, anywhere, any device. Many people now have dumb monitors on their walls. Why will I buy a TV when a terminal I can cast to is all I need? I’d be worried in that industry too. How much does a dumb 80″ display cost, compared to a TV that is obsolescent when it leaves the store? Half of the displays are made by one manufacturer. What value add to we truly need? But I digress.

SO HERE’S MY QUESTION

It’s 2025, Sky is redundant, Spark has joined many other program delivery companies offering hundreds of channels of content for small fees in comparison to what people paid back in 2019. There is still some local programming, Shortland Street still survived (great marketing with the open day by the way) because the Government still owns the channel, and people still want to watch it, but almost everything else is delivered via fibre from offshore. How much did Sky and Spark write off? How much profit did they make out of rugby, Americas Cup and the Olympics

If you were on the management team of Sky or Spark back in 2019, and could go back in time, what would you do differently? Why not do that now? It doesn’t have to play out the way I’m predicting, but I suspect it probably will. Would you still spend hundreds of millions of dollars to deliver programming to customers for 2 months and then lose them? What could you do that might maintain and excite long term customers?

Now this was just my opinion. But I have been on the button many times over the years. I would love to read some rebuttal. Tell me I’m wrong and then let’s look back on this article in 2025.

Just after I finished Sky announced that they were investing $400 million to get the rights to rugby back.

About Luigi Cappel

Writer for hire, marketing consultant specialising in Location Based Services. Futurist and Public Speaker Auckland, New Zealand
This entry was posted in 3D Glasses, 3D Printing, Apps, Future, Future Technology, Gamification, Innovation, New Zealand, taxi industry, Technology, World Cup Rugby and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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