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Canadians will finally be able to see all the U.S. Super Bowl ads

“Simultaneous substitution” could end as soon as 2016 for major broadcasts

New England Patriots vs Seattle Seahawks game

The New England Patriots playing the Seahawks in Seattle in 2012. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty)

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The CRTC has announced a series of decisions stemming from fall’s “Let’s Talk TV” hearings, most notably the elimination of simultaneous substitution ( or “simsub”) for the year’s most-watched TV event.

In one of the biggest decisions stemming from the hearings, the federal broadcast regulator announced Thursday that it would eliminate simsub for the Super Bowl beginning in 2017, meaning that Canadian viewers will now be able to see U.S. commercials featured in the telecast.

The CRTC noted that current rights holder Bell Media—which yesterday announced a full roster of advertising partners for this weekend’s Super Bowl telecast—could also waive its simsub privilege beginning in 2016.

It stopped short of eliminating simsub entirely however, acknowledging that the revenue generated by the practice (pegged at around $250 million per year) is important to the broadcasting system – keeping ad dollars in Canada and helping create valuable programming such as news and information.

It said that TV stations and broadcasters would be allowed to keep simsub “for the time being,” although cable and satellite companies would no longer be permitted to perform it on specialty channels.

In a Thursday speech before the London Chamber of Commerce, CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said that simsub presents a “dilemma” for the regulator: it is disliked by consumers but adored by broadcasters.

He said that the revenue it draws—and “the addiction it creates”—has caused broadcasters to lose sight of its negative effect on Canadian programming, which is often shunted to undesirable timeslots or secondary channels to accommodate the “scheduling whims” of U.S. networks. “Why must our creators take second-class seats?” he asked.

However, he said that simsub is also here to stay, “too intertwined to remove entirely without upsetting the existing business model.”

In its decision, the CRTC acknowledged that the Super Bowl is a unique event and that big-budget U.S. commercials are “part of the spectacle.” The regulator said it would “not tolerate” avoidable errors related to simultaneous substitution, and is putting regulatory measures in place to ensure that viewers don’t miss “important parts” of programming they want to watch.

With files from Canadian Press.

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