Canadian Advertisers Side-Lined on Game Day

by | Jan 4, 2017

The Super Bowl is arguably the most prestigious live sporting event in North America, and the only live broadcast where the commercial content is as highly anticipated as the actual game.  So, it should come as no surprise that Canadian fans feel they are missing out on the complete experience when Canadian commercials are substituted for original US commercials – simultaneous substitution or sim-sub.

What is surprising is the CRTC’s reaction to a small but very vocal group advocating the removal of sim-sub, and their subsequent decision to remove sim-sub for the 2017 game.

The argument in part relates to the ability of viewers to see the much-anticipated US commercials, many created specifically for the Super Bowl.  This line of thinking falls flat when most US advertisers release their Super Bowl ads digitally in advance of the broadcast to a much more receptive audience.  Google data shows brands who release their ads pre-game see higher engagement, and current YouTube search terms already include “2017 Super Bowl commercial”.

And while Bell Media has on the surface benched their sales team by significantly reducing the rate and audience projections for the February game, the industry and the NFL are still holding out for a Hail Mary pass, despite the Canadian government’s reiterations that it will not intervene.

The managing director of NFL Canada, David Thomson, wrote a letter to Canada’s ambassador to the United States, David MacNaughton, asking that the Government of Canada take “immediate steps” to allow sim sub during the Super Bowl, calling the one-off sim sub order “arbitrary and discriminatory,” and that the CRTC has interfered with the contractual rights between a U.S. and a Canadian company with the decision.

The NFL and the US Consulate hosted a round table discussion at the end of 2016 with key industry members including ACA, ACTRA, think tv, Bell Media, CMDC as well as a few clients and agencies to draw attention to the impact of the decision.  They hit the mark with US Senators Ron Johnson and Marco Rubio, who embraced the NFL’s position by writing their own letter to MacNaughton.

While this may seem an isolated decision around a high-profile event, it opens the door for anyone to challenge sim-sub. Advertising revenue is the lynch pin around which the Canadian broadcast industry revolves.  Ads connect brands & advertisers with Canadian consumers who purchase their products.  The revenue generated from selling advertising space fuels the content creation engine that employs numerous Canadians in the creative and production industries.  It is a successful model that benefits both the industry and the Canadian public.

So a handful of Canadians determined to exercise their right to view the broadcast as aired, may set the advertising industry down a path that could change the face of Canadian television forever.

This close to game time, Canadian advertisers are almost certain to be shut out of Super Bowl LI in Houston, while US advertisers will get a free pass to Canadian audiences.

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