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NFL in Court to Stop U.S. Super Bowl Ads on Canadian TV

The pro league urges an appeals court to strike down a ban from 2017 on local commercials replacing American spots during the championship game telecast.

The NFL has gone to court to stop Canada's TV regulator from forcing the CTV network to air United States Super Bowl telecast commercials.

The league instead wants the CTV to continue maximizing Super Bowl ad revenue with homegrown ads to boost the value of the Canadian broadcast rights for the next time they come up for renewal.

In a court filing, the NFL and NFL Productions urged the Federal Court of Appeal to strike down a CRTC policy unveiled in January 2015 that will ban homegrown ads replacing glitzy American spots when the CTV, the current Canadian NFL rights holder, airs the annual championship game, starting in 2017.

The NFL told the Canadian appeals court it stands to lose as the CTV will receive less advertising revenue for its Super Bowl broadcast. "Accordingly, the NFL will be unable to fully exploit the value of its Super Bowl and other copyrights in Canada, and will be disadvantaged in future negotiations with Canadian licensees," the league stated in its filing.

The NFL also said the CRTC unfairly singled out the Super Bowl as the regulator retains its simultaneous substitution rules for the rest of American programming on Canadian TV sets. Canada's decades-long "sim-sub" rules allow local broadcasters to replace the U.S. feed for popular American shows like The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family and air local commercials to boost revenues.

The NFL, in its filing, argues the licensees of NFL rights in Canada should be able to "maximize their advertising revenues by ensuring that only the advertising on their signals, and not the competing advertising on the U.S. signals, would be available to Canadian viewers."

The NFL is intervening in a bid by CTV-parent Bell Media to get the federal appeals court to help keep local ads on its annual Super Bowl telecast. Bell Media argues it has a deal with the NFL for exclusive Canadian TV rights to the Super Bowl, and has been barred from fully exploiting those rights.

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Bell Media asked the federal appeals court to overturn a CRTC order that will force the broadcaster to air American ads during the big game starting in 2017.

Canadian broadcaster Bell Media has asked the federal appeals court to help keep local ads on its annual Super Bowl telecast rather than be forced to air glitzy American commercials duringthe big game.

The CRTC, Canada's TV watchdog, in late January said it will end an annual Canadian rite where TV viewers must watch local commercials that replace glitzy American counterparts on the U.S. feed. The new Super Bowl ad policy centers on Canada's decades-old simultaneous substitution rules, which allows local broadcasters to replace American commercials on any U.S. show with Canadian ads to boost airtime revenue.

But Bell Media, in its motion for leave to appeal, argued that it has a deal with the NFL for exclusive Canadian TV rights to the Super Bowl. The broadcaster claims the CRTC stops the broadcaster from fully exploiting those rights.

"The CRTC’s decision to disallow simultaneous substitution during the Super Bowl starting in 2017 interferes with Bell Media’s rights and benefits under the NFL agreement," the TV network stated. "The practical effect of the CRTC’s simultaneous substitution decision would be to retrospectively override significant terms of this agreement."

The CRTC in its January ruling said it will maintain simultaneous substitution rules for the rest of American programming on conventional Canadian TV sets, beyond the Super Bowl. But that's bringing little comfort to domestic broadcasters, which rely on simultaneous substitution to put around $250 million into their coffers each year.

Canadian TV producers in turn fear the CRTC tinkering with the simultaneous substitution rules will reduce the broadcasters' content expenditure obligations as part of their broadcast licenses.

 

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