NFL in Court to Stop U.S. Super Bowl Ads on Canadian TV

Super Bowl Malcolm Butler Ricardo Lockette H 2015
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Super Bowl Malcolm Butler Ricardo Lockette H 2015

The pro league urges an appeals court to strike down a ban from 2017 on local commercials replacing American spots during the championship game telecast.

The NFL has gone to court to stop Canada's TV regulator from forcing the CTV network to air United States Super Bowl telecast commercials.

The league instead wants the CTV to continue maximizing Super Bowl ad revenue with homegrown ads in order to boost the value of the Canadian broadcast rights for the next time they come up for renewal.

In a court filing, the NFL and NFL Productions urged the Federal Court of Appeal to strike down a CRTC policy unveiled in January 2015 that will ban homegrown ads replacing glitzy American spots when CTV, the current Canadian NFL rights holder, airs the annual championship game, starting in 2017.

The NFL told the Canadian appeals court it stands to lose, as the CTV will receive less advertising revenue for its Super Bowl broadcast. "Accordingly, the NFL will be unable to fully exploit the value of its Super Bowl and other copyrights in Canada, and will be disadvantaged in future negotiations with Canadian licensees," the league stated in its filing.

The NFL also said the CRTC unfairly singled out the Super Bowl, as the regulator retains its simultaneous substitution rules for the rest of American programming on Canadian TV. Canada's decadeslong "sim-sub" rules allow local broadcasters to replace the U.S. feed for popular American shows like The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family and air local commercials to boost revenues.

The NFL, in its filing, argues the licensees of NFL rights in Canada should be able to "maximize their advertising revenues by ensuring that only the advertising on their signals, and not the competing advertising on the U.S. signals, would be available to Canadian viewers."

The NFL is intervening in a bid by CTV parent Bell Media to get the federal appeals court to help keep local ads on its annual Super Bowl telecast. Bell Media argues it has a deal with the NFL for exclusive Canadian TV rights to the Super Bowl and has been barred from fully exploiting those rights.