By Richard Gordon
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Spark Sport picked up the TV rights to show all Blackcaps and New Zealand cricket played in New Zealand. This has led to a lot of chatter on social media about Spark Sport being less widely accessible than SKY (as an aside, the only legitimate complaint people can have about Spark Sport is regarding the lack of physical access to the internet preventing a small number of people from accessing sport). I don’t intend to delve into this debate, I’m here to talk about highlights.
We can all agree that highlights of matches played by [insert NZ men’s/women’s team in any sport] should be available free-to-air and should not be stuck behind a paywall. Highlights are crucial for any National Sporting Organisation to showcase its sport to the world, and to grow interest and, crucially, playing numbers. They are also a way for those who cannot afford to subscribe to, or cannot access, SKY or Spark Sport to follow at least some of the action. I must admit I fall into the latter category. Living in the UK makes watching cricket in NZ very difficult (unless you are an insomniac), and I rely on highlights to keep up.
Why then, are Spark Sport and New Zealand Cricket only making publicly available a very poorly edited highlights package, when, between them, they have much higher quality packages available behind a paywall?
NZC post a 6 minute-ish highlights package on YouTube a couple of hours after a match or day has finished. These packages are incredibly poorly edited. They have no replays of wickets, do not include DRS reviews and ball-tracking moments, and miss vital parts of the game. Take Day 3 of the 2nd Test between NZ and Pakistan as an example. There were several dropped catches left out, and – unforgivably in my opinion – the moments when Kane Williamson reached 200, and Daryl Mitchell brought up his maiden Test century were not included, amongst many others.
Spark Sport have three different highlights packages available behind the paywall (short, medium, and long). None of these are the same as the NZC package on YouTube. These are of a much higher quality and are more consistent with the product the public is used to seeing (from SKY).
This begs the question, why have the publicly available highlights degraded so much since NZC switched from SKY to Spark Sport? Who is responsible for editing this package – NZC or Spark Sport? Common sense would suggest it is Spark Sport. Indeed their response to a recent complaint on Twitter was odd.
In the complaint, the question was asked whether Spark Sport provide these packages. Spark Sport replied, but all they said was they do not do highlight packages on Spark Sport’s YouTube channel. That wasn’t the issue at all, the issue was who was editing the ones provided on NZC’s YouTube channel, and Spark Sport dodged that quicker than Boris Johnson flip-flopping on lockdown.
There seems to be a quick fix. SKY had no problems making available its high-quality highlights package on Facebook and the free SKY Sport Highlights App. Why can’t Spark Sport make its highlights packages publicly available?
As an aside, NZC used to email the high-quality SKY-provided highlights packages to its member database after every game. Why has this stopped?
The cynic in me suggests that this is all a devious scheme to push people behind the paywall – even for decent quality highlights. If that is true, shame on everyone involved.
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