Bell Media says it will continue its fight alongside the NFL to reverse a ban on substitution of Canadian ads for U.S. spots during the Super Bowl, a move it blames for a nearly 40-per-cent drop in viewership during Sunday’s game.
“It’s the outcome we predicted despite our efforts to mitigate the loss, and the support of the Canadian companies that stepped up to advertise on the domestic broadcast,” Bell Media said in a statement.
“The CRTC’s decision is clearly having a direct and negative impact on Canadian viewers, advertisers and the broader broadcasting and creative community.”
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in January 2015 said it would ban U.S. signal substitution during the Super Bowl starting this year, a ruling that followed complaints from Canadian consumers over the blocking of popular U.S. ads via a signal disruption that in some cases cut into the game.
The move meant that the Fox feed in Canada on Sunday featured the popular American commercials, rather than local Canadian ads that have been inserted into the U.S. network Super Bowl coverage for decades.
Bell had tried to retain its audience with steps that included the expansion of the Super Bowl LI broadcast to CTV Two and TSN on top of the main CTV feed, along with contests and promotions aimed at rewarding viewers for sticking with the Canadian programming. The game on CTV, CTV Two and TSN channels drew an average audience of
“The CRTC’s decision is clearly having a direct and negative impact on Canadian viewers, advertisers and the broader . . . creative community.” STATEMENT BY BELL MEDIA
4.47 million viewers, down 39 per cent from last year’s CTV audience of 7.32 million.
Fox viewership is not measured by Canadian broadcast measurement company Numeris and Fox Sports did not immediately respond to a question about the increase in its Canadian audience.
Bell, midway through a contract that gives it exclusive Canadian broadcast rights to the Super Bowl until the 20182019 seasons, says it is less able to recoup rights fees with ad revenue thanks to the signal substitution ban and as a result has less motivation to bid for future rights.
It says the simultaneous substitution of Super Bowl ads had generated $250 million in annual revenue for the broadcasting industry, with some of the proceeds used to fund homegrown TV content.
Montreal-based BCE, Bell Media’s parent, lobbied without success to have the federal government intervene and suspend the ruling in advance of the game, which saw the New England Patriots score an overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons. In November, BCE and the NFL were granted leave to appeal the ruling, arguing that the ban unfairly targeted Bell Media since the CRTC continues to allow signal substitution on other U.S. programs such as the Oscars.