The broadcaster said in a statement on Tuesday that over the last week, three of its key partners — the NBA, Formula 1 and the English Premier League — had cancelled or postponed events, leading to an acute dearth of live content.
Spark sport chief Jeff Latch described the current period as "a very challenging time for sports bodies, broadcasters and fans alike", adding that while live events were off the air, Spark Sport wanted to look after its customers's needs.
“We love bringing New Zealand some of the best live sport from around the globe, but COVID-19 has impacted the range of live events we have on the platform – so offering our channels and on-demand content up free of charge during this time feels like the right thing to do," he said.
“We also recognise a lot of New Zealanders are either in self-isolation or limiting social interaction at the moment and having access to sports content is a great way for people to be entertained and keep their spirits up.
"So, we are also opening up the platform free of charge until May for new customers and customers with a suspended subscription that want to re-activate it. Customers can expect to see a few changes on our website in the coming days as we tweak the sign up journey to reflect these changes.
“It goes without saying that this isn’t sustainable in the long term, so once our key sports partners are able to resume coverage, we will recommence our paid subscription model again, but this will not happen until May at the earliest.”
Latch said while Spark was aware that nothing could substitute for a live game, it would do what it could to offer the best substitutes.
"For example, we have already been given the opportunity to access content from the Premier League archive that includes historic matches, highlight shows and the legends documentary series featuring greats like Thierry Henry and Gianfranco Zola," he added.
“If customers want to request a specific match they would like to re-watch they can get in touch with us on our Facebook page and we will endeavour to source the most popular matches requested. The requested matches will be added to the already extensive ‘Premier League Fan Requests’ section on Spark Sport.
“In addition to the extra Premier League content we are in talks with our other sports partners to ensure our customers have a steady pipeline of quality content available to watch. Currently Spark Sport has a raft of content from the NBA, Heineken Champions Cup, Premier League, the WTA, World Rally Championships, FIH Hockey, Formula 1, ONE Championship and more, so people will have plenty to watch.”