Simultaneous substitution, the Superbowl & Canadian identity

The CRTC recently announced that as of Superbowl 2017, Canadian broadcasters will no longer be allowed to swap Canadian advertising into US broadcast signals carrying the Superbowl.

The CRTC has said that the 2012-2013 broadcast year, ad switching provided approximately $250 million for Canadian broadcasters in ad revenue.

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

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

But don’t let any of the numbers fool you.

For one, this new rule only applies to the Superbowl. So that means other big US events like the Oscars, Grammy’s, Golden Globes and others will still have Canadian ads substituted on American broadcast signals.

So at most CTV alone stands to make $40 million less a year in ad revenue. They also now have two years to figure out a way to make up that revenue.

After the announcement I did a lot of reading about the decision and opinions of Canadian consumers about this announcement. 

The history of simulcasting goes back all the way to the 70’s.

Many of the comments applauded the decision. There were also some odd comments revolving around the notion that that the CRTC should leave things like this alone. Many people mentioned that they don’t care about the commercials and that they don’t get the need for people to watch ads for US products that aren’t available in Canada.

The CRTC has said they get the most complaints after the Superbowl from Canadians who complain about not being able to see the US commercials live. As well one of the biggest complaints with simultaneous substitution for any show/event is timing complaints. 

Often the Canadian broadcaster doing the simultaneous substitution will run long with the Canadian commercials and cut back to the original broadcast late often missing 2 - 10 seconds of the broadcast. For a sports fan I get that can be extremely annoying.

It’s no secret that the Superbowl is a big event. Coming from an advertising background it’s a well known fact that advertisers in the US put a lot of perparation into their executions for this one day. Brands can turn their latest creative effort into a social media wind storm if they hit the mark.

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

So for some, the commercials are as much a intrinsic part of the experience. That experience has not translated to the Canadian advertising market. Tell me one Canadian brand that embraces the US Superbowl like the American advertisers.

During this years Canadian broadcast on CTV I saw at least two Bell ads at every break. The majority of them were for CraveTV or other Bell products or CTV promotions for broadcasts of other American shows they have the rights to. Many of the other commercials were for US films or international brands. So for all of those people who want ‘Canadian’ commercials, then go ahead and watch the CTV broadcast. 

Let’s be clear though, CTV adds nothing to the broadcast except Canadian ads and their CTV logo in the bottom right hand corner (even when the NBC logo was still in the top right corner). There are no Canadian personalities doing play by play, there are no back stories about Canadian players in the game and there is no Canadian music artist substituted in during the halftime show. This is all about ad revenue, and that’s it. People who complain about this killing the Canadian identity should be complaining why the majority of Canadian stations show lineups are US shows and not actual Canadian produced TV shows.

Here’s the thing, consumers want choice in this day and age. There is a fairly large sub set of people who watch the Superbowl to see the US commercials. It’s a live event and people want to see these commercials as they are broadcast live so they get the full experience that is associated with the event. They don’t want to wait and go online and watch them later.

They'd also like to see post game coverage. CTV didn't even show the Vince Lombardi trophy being awarded, instead Canadians got to enjoy Master Chef Canada (note I don't count Master Chef Canada a 'Canadian' show and if you do then don't bother complaining to me about CanCon).

Now come 2017 people will be able to choose what experience they want. CTV and other Canadian broadcasters can still broadcast the game on their channels with the Canadian commercials and the consumer will have the choice to watch one or the other. 

My question is why? 

If the average Canadian cable package has CTV, Global, CBC and CItyTV along with NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX then why are Canadian channels spending millions of dollars for events like the Superbowl? Especially in a day and age when Canadians are watching less and less traditional TV? 

This year streamed the game free internationally. also streamed the game, but you had to have a traditional cable subscription to watch it, and their list of providers was very limited.

This announcement by the CRTC does little to help the Canadian consumer slash their over priced for cable bill or address any of the real issues.

The commercials have been a large part of the Superbowl for years now and the CRTC seems to be realizing this just now. Canadians now have two years to wait to enjoy the game like so many others already do.

People who complain that US live events without Canadian commercials substituted in is the death of Canadian identity should just relax and stop watching said US events then, because commercials are not what CanCon rules are for. 

Kutko CanadaComment