The NFL is intervening in a court case that could determine whether or not Canadians will see U.S. Super Bowl ads, according to multiple news reports.
The CRTC, Canada’s telecom regulator, announced a rule change in January ending “simsub,” or simultaneous substitution, of Canadian ads during the Super Bowl.
It means Canadian viewers will be able to see U.S. Super Bowl ads on U.S. channels, taking away viewership from the Canadian ads that will continue to air on CTV’s broadcast of the game. If it withstands the court challenge, the rule will be in place as of the 2017 Super Bowl.
CTV owner Bell Media took the CRTC to court in March asking for the rule to be overturned. In filings with the Federal Court of Appeal, it argued the regulator had made an error in singling out the Super Bowl, while allowing simsub during other network broadcasts.
The NFL this week filed documents in that case, backing Bell’s arguments.
“The CRTC lacked an intelligible justification to single out the Super Bowl,” the NFL’s motion said, as quoted at the Financial Post. “It treated the Super Bowl as a separate class of programming unto itself, for which U.S. advertising is ‘integral,’ without any justification for why U.S. advertising is not also integral to other League games or other highly rated American programs such as the Oscars.”
The NFL doesn’t stand to lose much in the short term; it will collect the revenue from its broadcast rights agreement with Bell Media regardless. It’s CTV that would have to swallow the cost of lower advertising revenue.
However, as Fox Sports explains, the NFL stands to lose the next time the Canadian rights to the Super Bowl are up for grabs. If Canadian ad revenue is down, the league will likely get less money for broadcast rights next time around.
The CRTC’s decision was likely the result of public pressure. Commercials aired during the Super Bowl have become a large part of the event itself, and the absence of these commercials on Canadian TV has become one of the most common complaints about Canadian broadcasting.
Some 19.3 million Canadians watched at least part of the Super Bowl this year, Fox Sports notes, compared to 160 million Americans. That means a larger percentage of Canadians viewed the game than did Americans -- 54.9 per cent of the Canadian population, versus 50.8 per cent of the U.S. population.
CTV extended its contract to broadcast the Super Bowl in 2013, for an undisclosed sum of money. The network now owns the rights to all of the NFL’s regularly scheduled Sunday games, as well as the playoff schedule and the Super Bowl.