Business·AMANDA LANG

Super Bowl commercials in Canada could soon be a reality. But at what cost?

Amanda Lang's first order of business

The CRTC announced several changes that could affect the future of television, Amanda Lang says

Super Bowl commercials in Canada

The Exchange with Amanda Lang

6 years agoVideo
8:34
The CRTC is going to allow U.S. Super Bowl ads on Canadian broadcasts starting in 2017 8:34

Thursday's first order of business: a bit of tough talk from the country's broadcast and telecom regulator, including a warning not to abandon the investment in local television — and yes, he means the CBC too.

It comes amidst several other decisions (some of which will please consumers and some of which won't) all emerging from the CRTC's 'Let's Talk TV' hearings that are timely given how quickly the business model for all broadcasters is changing.

— Amanda Lang


Some big moves from Canada's broadcast regulator today. It announced three decisions that affect how we watch programming, all of which follow a 15-month dialogue with the public. Among them, a change to something Canadians complained about a lot.

Millions will tune into the Super Bowl this Sunday just to watch the commercials. And no wonder. Advertisers shelled out $4.5 million US for 30 seconds of air time this year to wow viewers and outdo competitors. Canadians are actually more likely to search the ads online than Americans, according to Google. Probably because many of us don't get to see them live. Now the CRTC is going to change that.

The process is called 'simultaneous substitution', or 'simsub.' That's when Canadian broadcasters replace American ads with domestic ones. It's worth about $250 million in annual revenue. The CRTC considered ending 'simsub' entirely, but settled on a partial ban during only the Super Bowl. Which means that starting in 2017, broadcasters will lose a fraction of those ad revenues.

But now Canadians will be able to see those flashy, expensive U.S. ads. It's also a decision that benefits die-hard football fans. All of that switching of feeds sometimes interrupts a pivotal catch or game-winning touchdown. And the CRTC says, that's unacceptable.

Not the only CRTC news

The CRTC made two other key announcements. First, it ordered Bell and Videotron to stop giving 'unfair' preference to their mobile customers. There had been complaints that subscribers were able to watch their video content through an app for free, but customers were charged when they watched content from rival sources. The CRTC also ruled that "free over-the-air television is a competitive alternative to cable and satellite television."

Many broadcasters wanted to cut that option off. But as the regulator notes, about one million Canadians still watch TV that way.

Amanda Lang sat down with CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais on Thursday to talk about what the regulator's changes mean for television's future. 

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