Canadian or US Commercials for Superbowl 54?

January 30, 2020
Tom Shipman

The matchup is now set for Superbowl 54; The San Francisco 49ers will face the Kansas City Chiefs @ Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on February 2nd in what is the single largest television audience annually in North America.

For NFL football fans, it’s the pinnacle championship game of the season, and for non-football fans the big draw will either be the Shakira & J-Lo half-time show or those big budget U.S. Superbowl Commercials!  Quite often, the entertaining U.S. commercials generate as much or more buzz as the game itself!

Historically, Canadians have not had access to see the U.S. commercials on the broadcast, due to Simulcast television regulations in our country;  Any time a Canadian television station is airing a U.S. based program simultaneous to it airing in America – The Canadian station signal replaces the U.S. station signal – so no matter whether you’re watching via the Canadian station directly or via the U.S. station – all you see are the Canadian commercials.

That was, until 2016, when the CRTC decided that in the case of the Super Bowl, the usual practice of Simulcast was not in the public interest – and just like that, for the last 3 years Canadians have had the option to watch the Superbowl on a U.S. station – and see the U.S. Superbowl commercials, or watch on CTV and see the Canadian commercials.

Bell Canada (owners of CTV) secured exclusive NFL rights in Canada in 2013 on the premise that it had opportunity to monetize the regular season games and the Superbowl.  The CRTC’s decision to take away Simulcast from CTV for the Superbowl resulted in massive ratings lost to the U.S. television signal – as Canadians flocked to see those U.S. Commercials.

Bell Canada in tandem with the NFL appealed the Superbowl Simulcast decision, and just before Christmas, the Supreme Court of Canada blew the whistle on the CRTC.  The Supreme Court ruled that the CRTC went beyond its authority under the broadcasting act when it took action to ensure that the U.S. Superbowl ads could be seen in Canada.

The fact that the Supreme Court decision came just days prior to Christmas, likely means that many Canadians missed this Super-Big news and will end up surprised and potentially upset on Superbowl day, with the expectation of seeing the U.S. commercials.

But look at the bright side – we’ll still get to see some great half time acts from Shakira and J-Lo….and oh, there’s the actual football game too!