Bell wins right to appeal CRTC decision that forces it to air American Super Bowl commercials

Bell has won the right to appeal a policy recently mandated by the CRTC that allows U.S. commercials to air on Canadian TV during coverage of the NFL Super Bowl.

The policy was enacted due to Canadian demand for the American commercials — which have become a significant media event unto themselves — but the telco, which owns TSN, feels the program is being unfairly singled out. It argues that the Super Bowl should be no different from the rest of its American programming, in which it’s able to simultaneously substitute (or “simsub”) out American advertising for Canadian content. The NFL also intervened on Bell’s behalf in a court filing.

According to The Globe and Mail, simsub revenue brings in an estimated $250 million for Canada’s broadcasting system as a whole and millions from the Super Bowl alone.

Bell’s dilemma 

The policy banning simsub from the Super Bowl was released in January 2015, but gave Bell until the 2017 Super Bowl to enact the exclusion. Now the Federal Court of Appeal has granted Bell leave to appeal the decision, but denied the company’s request to suspend the decision in the meantime.

With only three months left before the Super Bowl kicks off, this puts Bell in an awkward position as The Globe and Mail reports that it has been selling ad space to Canadian buyers under the assumption it would get a reprieve. Ultimately, the company may have to revisit those agreements with its buyers.

Justice David G. Near stated that the company could bring a motion to expedite the appeal, however.

‘A different kettle of fish’

“We’re happy that our appeal is moving forward but disappointed the court didn’t stay the CRTC’s decision considering the uncertainty it creates and its impact on viewers and advertisers in Canada for Super Bowl LI,” a Bell spokesperson said in a statement to The Globe and Mail.

In an August interview with the publication, CRTC Chairman and CEO Jean-Pierre Blais noted that he was comfortable with the decision, stating “The Super Bowl is a different kettle of fish, and we certainly are having a lot of debate on three hours [of programming].”

Related: CRTC hearing on differential pricing for Canadian data plans begins this week

Image credit: JasonParis via Flickr

[source]The Globe and Mail[/source]