Bell seeks reversal of CRTC Super Bowl ad ruling, saying it cost $11M this year
3.4 million Canadians watched last year's game on a U.S. network instead of Canadian rights holder Bell
Bell is renewing its call on the CRTC to reverse a recent decision that forces broadcasters to let Canadian viewers watch U.S. Super Bowl ads, a request that has the support of numerous sports, advertising and artistic groups.
In 2016, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ordered the Super Bowl broadcaster to stop doing something called simultaneous substitution — better known as simsub — a practice by which Canadian broadcasters take U.S. content and replace U.S. advertisements with Canadian ones.
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.
But the CRTC's decision meant that for the first time last February, Canadian Super Bowl viewers could watch big budget U.S. ads if they watched the game on U.S. channels.
The results were telling. Roughly 5.4 million Canadians watched the game on Bell owned stations CTV, TSN or RDS. But another 3.4 million Canadians watched the game on a Fox channel, where they would have seen U.S. ads.
Bell argues it lost out on as much as 40 per cent of its audience as a result of that decision, which cost the network $11 million worth of advertising revenue.
It says the impact on Canada's economy as a whole is higher still.
On Tuesday, BCE Inc. formally requested that the CRTC reverse its decision on simsub in time for next February's game.
Bell says if the CRTC reverses its decision on Super Bowl ads, it can offer a compromise so that Canadian viewers would still be able to watch high-profile American ads for the big game.
"If the simsub ban is lifted," Bell said, "Bell Media would produce a special broadcast of U.S. Super Bowl commercials airing on game day and make it available free of charge to all Canadian broadcast distributors to offer as a video-on-demand service."
Bell's request has the backing of numerous other groups with a stake in the decision, including The National Football League (NFL), national union Unifor, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA) and the Canadian Media Directors' Council.
"The original CRTC decision was a foolish one," said Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, Canada's biggest union which represents 12,000 Canadian journalists and media workers.
"Thirty cents of every advertising dollar earned by CTV on the Super Bowl goes directly into making new Canadian TV content, including local news. Allowing U.S. border stations to grab those ad dollars after CTV has paid top dollar for the game's Canadian distribution rights is beyond belief."