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Animals Matter to Me

Super Bowl ads less super in Canada

The press coverage leading up to a Super Bowl often focuses more on the big budget commercials more than the football game itself. Canadians always get the worst of this: they have to hear all the lead up stories about the ads which are going to be aired, and then they don’t get to see them during the Super Bowl!

We have the Canadian broadcasters, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and broadcast rights to thank for that. Canadian networks buy the rights to show US programs in Canada. That also buys them the right to override American network feeds in Canada. That means that even if a Canadian viewer makes sure to tune into NBC to watch the Super Bowl, they will be really watching the CTV (Canadian) feed, like it or not. With the Canadian feed being seen by much fewer people, the ads are much less expensive and similarly less impressive, often just normal commercials seen during any other show.

The CRTC calls this “signal substitution” and it apparently has confused enough people to make them create a Super Bowl-specific page to explain it. Signal substitution happens everyday, but it is not usually a big deal. When does someone actually know and care about what commercials are going to be seen during a particular show? Almost never, except for the Super Bowl.

Although I am in the US right now, I have Canadian satellite (Bell TV, formerly ExpressVu) for my television so I am in the same situation. For at least one previous Super Bowl, ExpressVu had worked some licensing magic to show the US broadcast with ads intact but I see no signs of that this year. I could drag out the rabbit ears and attempt to tune in the game but I think the hassle of finding and keeping a clear signal outweighs the small benefit of seeing the commercials. I’ll just watch them online tomorrow.


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