Super Bowl Ads Decision Draws Appeals, Protests
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s new policy on Super Bowl ads is drawing criticism from members of both the U.S. and Canadian governments, and it’s being appealed by the broadcaster that holds the rights to air the game in Canada.
For years, Canadians have eagerly tuned in to the NFL Championship, but in some cases they’re watching the commercials as much the game itself.
The game draws such a large audience that advertisers often pull out all the stops to create highly impactful ads that their viewers will remember.
In what seemed to be a rather sports fan-centric, consumer-friendly decision, the regulator said the Super Bowl must be set free – the CRTC will continue to allow simultaneous substitution for every type of broadcast in Canada, except the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl Ads, Game Action Bring Big Audiences, Top Ad Dollars
Audience ratings indicate the NFL title game – and its popular half-time entertainment component – draws roughly 10 million viewers in Canada; each year a hundred or so complaints are made to the CRTC about the simsub.
In Canada, a long-standing simultaneous substitution (simsub) policy has allowed Canadian broadcasters to put their own ads into U.S. programs for which they have purchased the right to air. As rightsholders on the property, Canadian companies want to sell their own ads to recoup the price they paid to air the program in the first place.
Canadian viewers may not notice the ad substitution during a normally scheduled TV show such as a popular weekly sitcom, but the Super Bowl is different: the ads can be a bigger deal than the game, and the commercials that air in the U.S. are often made with much bigger budgets that hope to achieve a much bigger impact than usual, based on the audience size as well as the after-game buzz that many ads create.
So viewers in Canada have complained to the broadcast regulator here about missing those U.S. Super Bowl ads.
While viewers want to see the U.S. commercials, they also want to see the game itself, which is why broadcasters here pay millions for the right to carry the game coverage. To recoup the purchase price, the Canadian TV stations sell their own ad space to Canadian advertisers.
If the Canadian spots are swapped out for U.S. ads, Canadian broadcasters argue, American companies get free and added exposure here, while Canadian TV companies can’t recoup the investment, or reach their audience as well or as easily.
The CRTC may well be picturing a very unique ‘second screen’ solution: two Super Bowl sportscasts at one time, one with the U.S. ads, one with Canadian spots.
In making its initial decision, the CRTC issued a distribution order pursuant to section 9(1)(h) of the Broadcasting Act, which, in effect, will remove authorization for simultaneous substitution for the Super Bowl, effective 1 January 2017.
“Through this order, Canadians will be able to view the U.S. Super Bowl commercials – an integral element of the event – broadcast on U.S. television stations rebroadcast in Canada by television service providers (cable, direct-to-home satellite or Internet Protocol television). Canadians may also choose to watch the Super Bowl on Canadian television stations with Canadian advertisements. Ultimately, Canadians will have the right to choose the stations on which they will watch the Super Bowl.”
Bell Appeals Super Bowl Ads Decision
But the Federal Court of Appeal has said it will hear Bell Media’s appeal of the CRTC’s ban on broadcasting Canadian commercials during the Super Bowl instead of the big-budget ads Americans get to watch.
So keep your eye on the clock: the CRTC’s decision goes into effect January 1, 2017; the Super Bowl is to be played February 5.
In the meantime, two Canadian Members of Parliament – both are Liberal MPs – are the latest to join the fray, and they want the broadcast regulator to change its tune during that timeframe.
Bob Nault and Wayne Easter are telling policymakers here that the decision could cost the Canadian economy tens of millions of dollars, and that it will result in the airing of ads for some products Canadians can’t legally purchase, using health care products and pharmaceuticals as one example.
Their letters echoes sentiments expressed by the NFL, which is protesting what it calls a decision that unfairly discriminates against its programming by treating it differently than other programs that air in Canada.
U.S. politicians, including former presidential candidate Marco Rubio, are also calling for, well, a flag on the play, saying the decision could harm U.S.-Canadian relations.
Audience ratings indicate the NFL title game – and its popular half-time entertainment component, such as at Super Bowl 50, pictured – draws roughly 10 million viewers in Canada; each year a hundred or so complaints are made to the CRTC about the simsub of Super Bowl ads.