12/19/2019 10:39 EST

U.S. Super Bowl Ads In Canada? Supreme Court Says No

The country's top court has overturned a regulatory decision banning broadcasters from substituting U.S. ads with Canadian ones.

Mike Segar / Reuters
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates winning Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga., Feb. 3, 2019.

OTTAWA ― The Supreme Court has overturned a decision that allowed viewers to see keenly anticipated American commercials during the Super Bowl broadcast.

Bell Canada’s media division secured an exclusive licence from the NFL in 2013 to broadcast the Super Bowl in Canada and sold ad time to Canadian businesses to be inserted into the program on both Canadian and American stations.

Watch: Buzzworthy ads from the most recent Super Bowl. Story continues below.


The practice denied Canadian viewers a chance to see entertaining U.S. commercials that often generated as big a buzz as the football game.

In 2016, the federal broadcast regulator decided that in the case of the Super Bowl, the usual practice of substituting Canadian ads for U.S. ones on American channels available in Canada was not in the public interest.

Bell said the regulator’s decision cost it viewers and millions of dollars in revenue, prompting an appeal from the broadcaster and the NFL.

The Federal Court of Appeal rejected the challenge, saying Parliament intended the regulator to decide how best to balance competing policy objectives related to broadcasting in Canada.