The 2017 SUPER BOWL commercials – who’s in, who’s out…
everything you need to know can be found here

Background Information

On January 29, 2015, the CRTC released Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-25, which outlines changes to existing policies regarding Simultaneous Substitution – or SimSub – for Canadian broadcasters. While the policy broadly allows broadcasters to continue the practice of Sim Sub for “the time being”, a single broadcast was singled out for exclusion: the SUPER BOWL, beginning in 2017 and beyond. Bell Media, whose CTV network is the current rights-holder for this marquee broadcast event, will be mid-way through its binding contract with the NFL at the time of the regulation change.

What this means is that Canadians who could previously watch American SUPER BOWL advertisements at no cost on You Tube will now be able to see them during the broadcast on television. It should be noted, however, that the CRTC receives roughly 100 official complaints each year about the availability of U.S. ads during CTV’s SUPER BOWL broadcast. Taken into context, 18.3 million people tuned into some or all of the game in Canada last year, meaning only 0.0005 per cent of those Canadians officially took issue with not being able to see U.S. ads during the 2016 broadcast.

Based on a limited number of formal complaints about advertising that is readily available in Canada on the Internet, the CRTC is eliminating an advertising platform for Canadian businesses to the detriment of the rights holder and the Canadian economy overall, all without oversight on advertising standards.

SimSub and the SUPER BOWL

The January 29, 2015 CRTC ruling regarding the practice of Simultaneous Substitution (SimSub) was directed exclusively towards a single broadcast – the Super Bowl. As such, the CRTC SimSub ruling does not encompass pre-game or post-game programming, including programming originating from U.S. networks.

CTV purchases the exclusive Canadian broadcast rights for the SUPER BOWL in an effort to bring one of the biggest events of the year to sports fans across the country. Despite that exclusivity and the fact that American networks do not purchase the rights to broadcast programs in Canada, most programs like the SUPER BOWL are available via their originating U.S. networks in Canadian homes.

As a result, to protect our investment in the SUPER BOWL and other programs, CTV, like other Canadian broadcasters, requests that its signal be substituted on American channels broadcasting programs for which we have purchased the exclusive Canadian rights. This practice is called simultaneous substitution and it is why some of the SUPER BOWL commercials seen in the United States are not seen in Canada.

In addition to allowing Canadian businesses to advertise their products to Canadian viewers, simultaneous substitution has many other benefits for Canadians, including fostering a strong and financially viable Canadian broadcast industry. Simultaneous substitution contributes to the Canadian economy through the tens of thousands of jobs created by broadcasters and advertisers, and ultimately provides the ability to deliver Canadian sports and local news to Canadian viewers.

The CRTC says on its website that SimSub protects the rights of broadcasters, keeps advertising dollars in the Canadian market, and promotes local broadcasting:

o “When broadcasters buy programs from American and Canadian producers or networks, they pay to have broadcast rights for their markets. Simultaneous substitution protects these rights.”

o “Watching Canadian advertising instead of American ensures that advertising money is generated for the Canadian market.”

o “By helping local stations keep their local audiences and the advertising dollars that go with those audiences, simultaneous substitution enables them to continue to operate…”

The Decision’s Impact on Canadian Businesses and the Economy

The SUPER BOWL broadcast provides a unique platform for Canadian advertisers to a reach a mass audience in Canada.  It creates a one-time opportunity for homegrown companies to compete with large foreign competitors and generates significant economic activity. With the ban of SimSub during the SUPER BOWL, American companies are being handed additional exposure to millions of Canadian consumers, at no additional cost. Simply put, the CRTC is taking money out of the Canadian economy and putting it in the hands of American companies.

This affects not only iconic Canadian companies like Scotiabank, Loblaws and Tim Hortons, but also small local businesses across the country that purchase local airtime in the SUPER BOWL broadcast. Ultimately, Canadians will be watching American ads for products and services they probably can’t buy.

The Decision’s Impact on the Viewing Experience

American ads are not bound by the same regulatory standards as Canadian ads, and do not need to follow our advertising codes. There is potential for breaches of Canadian ad standards, with no obvious recourse for Canadian viewers should they be offended or disturbed by an American ad. Should complaints be levelled at the broadcaster being compelled to carry the American advertisements?

The Decision’s Impact on Bell Media and the Canadian Broadcasting Industry

Advertising revenue for the SUPER BOWL each year have all been subject to Canadian Programming Expenditure obligations that have contributed millions of dollars over the years toward investment in Canadian programming. This will disappear if the SimSub ban is enacted.

In addition, the SUPER BOWL has been a core promotional platform for Canadian programming. Last year’s broadcast featured promotional airtime valued at more than $4 million for homegrown Canadian series.

The CRTC has eliminated SimSub during an existing and binding contract with the NFL, simultaneously hand-cuffing Bell Media to significant programming fees while removing the company’s ability to derive revenue from their property. This will have a direct impact on Bell Media’s continuing ability to support Canadian jobs, generate tax revenues, and contribute to Canadian programming.

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