Screaming over streaming

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WELLINGTON (AFP) — New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup broadcaster apologized to furious All Blacks fans and offered refunds Sunday after a livestream of the defending champion’s opening fixture failed mid-match.

Many supporters hoping to watch Saturday night’s 23-13 victory over South Africa were confronted by pixellated screens, buffering and error messages, broadcaster Spark said.

“Midway through the first half we identified that the quality of the video stream was fluctuating for some customers,” it said in a statement.

“We apologize to all impacted customers and we will be working with our partners to rectify what happened and ensure the rest of the tournament goes well.”

More than 10,000 callers flooded Spark’s helpline and the broadcaster was forced to screen the second half on free-to-air television, later saying it would do the same for all of Sunday’s matches.

It was an embarrassing failure for Spark, the country’s largest telecommunications carrier, which is aiming to revolutionize sports broadcasting in New Zealand via livestreaming.

For the first time, fans in the rugby-mad nation have to purchase a tournament package or individual match passes to access a livestream.

Previous tournaments were broadcast on Sky’s cable subscription service.

Spark said customers who purchased access to Saturday’s match would receive a full refund, while those who had tournament packages could claim back 15 percent of their subscription fee.

The issue was the top trending topic on Twitter in New Zealand as fans vented their frustration on social media.

Radio Sport broadcaster Martin Devlin said customers who had believed Spark’s assurances in the lead-up to the tournament had a right to be angry.

“Disappointing is all I can say about this,” he said.

“After such a protracted build-up, after such expectation and anticipation — months and months in the planning — quite frankly it wasn’t good enough.”

Spark said the problem lay with its “international streaming partners” and was not caused by poor online infrastructure in New Zealand.

“We can confirm that the issue was not related to New Zealand broadband capacity, with the demand for this game well within our operating thresholds,” it said.

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