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CRTC allows American Super Bowl ads to air in Canada starting in 2017

A screen shot from a Volkswagen ad which aired during the Super Bowl in 2011.
Image Credit: YouTube
January 29, 2015 - 1:15 PM

OTTAWA - Coming soon to a TV near you: American ads during the Super Bowl.

The iconic U.S. pitches, which are nearly a bigger draw than the game itself, must be shown on Canadian television starting in 2017, the Canadian broadcast regulator announced Thursday.

"Canadians have told us loud and clear: advertising is part of the spectacle associated with this event," said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The practice of simultaneous substitution, known as simsub, allows Canadian broadcasters who air U.S.-based programming to swap out the American ads for Canadian ones, in order to generate their own revenue and pour some of the money back into local programming.

But it enrages viewers, especially during live events, Blais said Thursday, noting Super Bowl season is the busiest time of year for the regulator in terms of complaints.

"They tell the CRTC — and we receive many complaints — that they want to see the newest American commercials as and when they are broadcast," he said.,

"And they rightly resent the fact that simsub is often mis-timed, causing viewers to miss, for example, key plays during a big game."

But, it is too lucrative for broadcasters for it to be banned altogether, Blais told a business gathering in London, Ont.

So the practice will remain for all other shows, including live events such as the Academy Awards or World Series, while the CRTC will keep a watchful eye on how broadcasters handle the ad switching.

"In this day and age, when technology allows us to wear computers, put a Canadarm in space and land a satellite on a comet, I cannot believe that every broadcaster does not have the wherewithal to execute (simultaneous substitution)," he said.

"There will be no more sleeping at the switch."

For example, if the cut-over causes viewers to miss a play, the broadcaster may be forced to pay rebates, while if an over-the-air station makes the same mistake, it may temporarily be barred from requesting ad substitution for future broadcasts of live events.

In the 2012-2013 broadcast year, ad switching provided approximately $250 million for Canadian broadcasters, the CRTC said.

Live-event simultaneous substitution specifically makes $40 million for CTV, which currently owns the broadcast rights for the Super Bowl.

This year, the network is believed to be charging between $170,000 and $200,000 for 30 seconds of airtime during the game.

The cost to air one ad on U.S. television during the broadcast is as much as $4.5 million for a thirty-second-spot.

Canadians already flock to YouTube to check out the latest crop of U.S. commercials, some of which cost millions to produce and look like miniature films.

Most of this year's ads are already online and another CRTC decision Thursday gives consumers a little bit more flexibility to watch those on their mobile devices.

The regulator ordered Bell Mobility and Videotron to stop giving their own mobile television services an unfair advantage over other Internet services.

The two companies had exempted their own TV services from standard monthly data charges while content from other websites or apps — like YouTube — was counted against a customer's data cap.

Thursday's decision on ad switching was the latest consumer-friendly move from the CRTC.

Last year, it banned the requirement for 30-days notice to cancel or change television, Internet or landline telephone service, following a similar rule rolled out for cellphone contracts in 2013.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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