Canada's Super Bowl spots at a trickle

CTV also has trouble selling exclusive rights

For Canadian advertisers, the Super Bowl has become a hard sell in hard times.

"It's a tough economic environment, so it's slower than in previous years," Rick Brace, president of revenue, business planning and sports at Super Bowl broadcaster CTV, said Wednesday.

Brace said that his network, which expects to wrap up its last-minute sales by Friday, is holding its ground on rates -- understood to be $117,000 for a 30-second spot, slightly more than last year's $110,000 base rate.

In another sign the recession has bitten domestic advertisers, CTV has been hard-pressed to sell exclusive rights in particular categories.

This year, the Canadian broadcaster has four automakers with Super Bowl spots, rather than having a sole automobile sponsor as in years past.

"It's not specific to the NFL, we're finding this in all sports properties. It just gets a little too expensive for one sponsor to take on exclusivity for one game," Brace said.

CTV also will have roughly one fewer minute per hour of commercial space to sell this year as it will use NBC's feed of Sunday's Super Bowl, and the U.S. host broadcaster chose to hold back commercial air time.

At the same time, to the perennial frustration of Canadian TV viewers, the CTV simulcast of the Super Bowl will continue a tradition of replacing U.S. commercials with Canadian ones.

In recent years, domestic cable and satellite TV operators have attempted to skirt Canadian regulatory rules and show their subscribers the much-hyped U.S. Super Bowl spots on unsubstituted U.S. border station feeds from Boston and Seattle.

The CRTC, Canada's TV watchdog, last year fingered Bell ExpressVu, a domestic satellite TV service, for ignoring longstanding simultaneous substitution rules and allowing U.S. commercials to slip through on its domestic feed of the 2008 Super Bowl game.

As a sanction, the CRTC told Bell ExpressVu and rival content carriers to employ extra measures, which include manual override, to ensure compliance with simulcast rules on Sunday.