Business

Bell and NFL turn to Supreme Court in appeal over Super Bowl ads

Bell Canada and the NFL are once again trying to get a regulatory decision that allows Canadians to watch American commercials during the Super Bowl overturned by appealing to the country's highest court this time.

Bell and the NFL apply for a stay on the ban of Canadian ads replacing American ones

The CRTC announced the ban on simultaneous substitution of Canadian advertising over American broadcasts in 2015, but it took effect during 2017's game. (Getty Images)

Bell Canada and the National Football League are once again trying to get a regulatory decision that allows Canadians to watch American commercials during the Super Bowl overturned by appealing to the country's highest court this time. 

The partners filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada on Jan. 2 after the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the ban by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in December.

The CRTC announced a ban on simultaneous substitution of Canadian ads over American broadcasts in 2016, but it did not take effect until the Super Bowl last year.

That was the first time viewers in Canada were able to see big budget American commercials during the game on U.S. channels in over 40 years.

Normally, Canadian rights holders for major TV events like the Super Bowl take the U.S. feed and then splice in their own advertisements during commercial breaks, which is how they make money to offset the high cost of those broadcasting rights.

About 5.4 million Canadians watched last year's game on Bell owned stations CTV, TSN or RDS, while 3.4 million turned to Fox channel, which played the U.S. ads.

Bell had asked the CRTC to reverse the ban in August, claiming its advertising revenues dropped by $11 million and it lost 40 per cent of its audience for the football game.

Appeal for leave

In its current appeal to the Supreme Court, Bell questioned whether the CRTC had the jurisdiction to target a single program like the Super Bowl, when events like the Academy Awards on U.S. networks show Canadian commercials.

"Simultaneous substitution allows the Canadian rights-holders to maximize the viewership for Canadian commercials and maximize its return on investments," Bell said. 

"It also promotes investment in and creation of programs made by Canadians."

The appeal also had the support of 23,000 professional artists represented by the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Arts (ACTRA), who said it they were "negatively" impacted by the regulatory decision.

The, CRTC, meanwhile, declined to comment on the appeal to the Supreme Court, saying the matter was before the court.

The regulatory body had made the decision after public consultation found that viewers wanted to watch the much-hyped U.S. commercials.

The Supreme Court has yet to make a decision on the appeal ahead of the big game on Feb. 4.

With files from The Canadian Press

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