RWC – results and problems

Aafter the opening three days of the Rugby World Cup in Japan there have been mostly predictable results. Most notable of the other results, Argentina had a very close match against France, losing 21-23, and Ireland were too classy for Scotland last night winning 27-3.

In the big game the All Blacks struggled at times against South Africa but a five minute two try blitz made the difference, plus a disciplined and strong defensive second half. This puts the ABs in the box seat for winning the pool, lining them up for a probably quarter final against Scotland if they aren’t upset by Samoa or Japan.

One of the biggest talking points about the RWC here has been the failure of Spark to provide flawless streaming of the games.

I have worked out what my problem probably is. My PC (it’s  few years old) doesn’t have enough processing power to handle the stream, despite being good enough to work with Netflix, Youtube and other streaming services. Every few seconds it pauses, which is very annoying,

From Spark Sport FAQs: Why is my stream buffering?

Even if you have a decent internet connection, some lower spec laptops and desktops might get stuttering or buffering issues as they don’t have the processing power to decrypt the stream. We would recommend checking that you’re running the latest version of your browser and if you’re still having issues – trying a different device.

Devices

If you’re having buffering issues, try watching on another device to determine if the issue is with your device or your connection. We also recommend trying to watch another piece of content on Spark Sport or other streaming provider such as Lightbox, to determine if the issue is with a single piece of content.

I found out that my work laptop, which is a couple of years newer, manages to stream without the hiccups. The problem is that it doesn’t have an HDMI port. And I hadn’t had time to work this out until Saturday evening, So we huddled in front of the small screen to watch the All Black-Springbok match, which wasn’t great.

And it wasn’t a flawless stream either, with a number of buffering pauses. A few minutes before the end of the game a message popped up saying that Spark had put the second half up on Duke due to ‘a small proportion’ of viewers. It was very annoying to only find this out near the finish, too late to be of much use – I even didn’t bother switching over.

I had connected Spark on Saturday morning about the problems, via email and via a tweet. I still haven’t had a reply to my email, but I got a response from my tweet – on Sunday, so too late for Saturday’s games.

They suggested that “it is common for older devices to have buffering issues that are not network related. I had already worked out this was a likely cause, but only streaming Spark Sport.

They had noticed I had tried with both Chrome and Firefox – Chrome wasn’t as bad, but still hard to watch.

They suggested I try Safari. I found that Safari hasn’t been updated for a few years but is supposed to perform better than Chrome and Firefox (or at least it did when it was current). I downloaded the latest version and tried it, but get this message.

I’m guessing this may be because Safari is too old to know about whatever streaming system Spark Sport is using.

I did some googling but haven’t found a way around this yet. So I will get back to Spark to find out if they have a solution for their suggested workaround.

So my TV, while ‘smart’, is too old to run the Spark Sport app – anything older than a couple of years is too old.

My PC is too old to stream without continual hiccups.

I’m sure I will be far from the only one to have found that Spark Sport streaming is not really good enough for mass delivery.

They are offering a money back option, but that would mean I can’t watch all the games I want to watch, and I won’t be able to stream on demand which was the benefit of a streaming service, especially with many RWC games late in the evening NZ time.

Maybe they can’t adequately resolve their technical deficiencies and will broadcast all games on Duke. That solves the bad viewing experience, but won’t provide on demand.

For now I will wait and see.The All Blacks don’t play again until next week. But I will want to have a decent way to watch all games by the time the quarter finals start (on 19 October). That gives Spark Sport about a month to sort their shit out.

Hopeless start to Spark RWC streaming

Spark winning the rights to broadcasting the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand meant I have had to pay a premium to watch any games I want to watch, as otherwise it would have been included in my Sky Sport subscription.

But I paid the $80, at least thinking that streaming meant that I could watch games at my convenience as opposed to at scheduled broadcast times.

I subscribed two weeks ago and had a quick test and it seemed to run ok.

I have unlimited fibre plan through Spark.

I am running it through my PC (connected via WIFI too my Spark supplied device) via an HDMI cable to my TV, which is a smart Samsung TV but more than a couple of years old so not supported by Spark.

I also did a quick test of the opening ceremony on Friday night and that seemed to run ok.

But as the first game (Japan v Russia) started late-ish I decided to stream it early this morning as that suited me better.

I got up just after 5 am and tried it. It didn’t start well. I could only get a badly broken picture. I switched from Chrome to Firefox, and it was a little better but still bad. So I switched back to Chrome and I got sound and picture, so settled in to watch.

The video quality at best was ok. he problem was that right through the first halve the streaming kept stopping every few seconds, sometimes momentarily, which was annoying, but sometimes for seconds, missing usually the most active play. That was bloody annoying.

I persevered until half time but was getting increasingly frustrated.

At half time I rebooted my PC and started it with just one program, Chrome. I did a Spark broadband speed test

According to Spark Sport: What broadband speed do I need?

We recommend that you have at least 15Mb/s download speeds to take advantage of our highest quality content, but if your speed is lower than this, the quality will adjust accordingly. A minimum of 6Mb/s download is required to support a Spark Sport stream.

To have a look at what your speed is, head over to speedtest.net and run the test on the device you plan to stream on, at a time and place where you would normally watch Spark Sport.

So I tried that speed test.

Spark also tries to answer Why is my stream buffering?

As Spark Sport is an online streaming service, there are several factors that could lead to you experiencing buffering issues. The quality of your streaming experience is determined by your broadband connection, your modem and where in the house it is located, the device you use and how many other devices in your home and neighbourhood are using the network at the same time.

Your network and connection

You will need a minimum of 6Mbps to be able to stream Spark Sport; we recommend at least 15Mb/s download speed to take advantage of our highest quality content.

So theoretically my Spark fibre connection should be more than good enough.

I tried watching the second half. It began the same as the first half, with pauses every few seconds.

Until the video stopped altogether and I only got audio.

So instead of watching I am typing this post. Bloody annoyed.

But before starting the post I tried to connect to Spark Sport help chat. I am still getting “Please wait, you are in a queue to speak to an agent.” I don’t know if I will speak to anyone before the second half is over. I have a house to paint.

I want to watch the All Blacks versus South Africa tonight, live. I’m not optimistic, but maybe streaming via peak viewing will be better.

But if Spark can’t provide adequate streaming on demand it will negate the advantage of streaming, and it will be a waste of money.

I often stream Netflix, Youtube, sometimes Parliament TV and other things with few problems, and nothing like the problems I have has streaming the RWC.

So far my experience with Spark Sport has been a dismal failure.