NFL Wins Court Battle to Halt U.S. Super Bowl Ads on Canadian TV

Superbowl LII Victory Philadelphia - Getty - H 2018
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The win overturns an earlier appeals court ruling over U.S. Super Bowl telecast commercials airing north of the border.

The National Football League has prevailed in a long-running Canadian legal battle to stop the local CTV network from being forced to air U.S. Super Bowl telecast commercials.

Canada's Supreme Court on Thursday overturned an earlier Federal Court of Appeals ruling that allowed the CRTC, the country's TV watchdog, to bar CTV-parent Bell Canada as a broadcaster and local rights holder from substituting its own TV feed and advertising for the U.S. signal during the Super Bowl.

The Federal Court of Appeals ruled against the NFL and NFL Productions by upholding the 2015 CRTC ban on homegrown ads replacing glitzy American spots on Canadian broadcasts of the annual championship game as part of a so-called simultaneous substitution regime.

Starting with CTV's Super Bowl broadcast in February 2017, the Canadian broadcaster was no longer allowed to replace U.S. commercials in the American feed, which led a big slice of the traditional Canadian Super Bowl audience on CTV and its sister stations to switch to the American network telecast.

But the Supreme Court in its Dec. 19 ruling argued the CRTC did not have jurisdiction to impose conditions on CTV's annual broadcast of the Super Bowl, which is popular with Canadians and a key driver of advertising revenue for the broadcaster.

"Because the CRTC did not purport, in the order, to mandate the carriage of any particular programming services, but instead sought to add a condition that must be fulfilled should a television service provider carry a Canadian station that broadcasts the Super Bowl, the issuance of that order was not within the scope of its delegated power (under the Broadcasting Act). The order should therefore be quashed, as well as the decision," Canada's highest court ruled in a majority decision posted online.

Canada's decades-long simultaneous substitution rules allow local broadcasters like CTV 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 argued the CTV needs to maximize Super Bowl ad revenue with homegrown ads to boost the value of the Canadian broadcast rights for the next time they come up for renewal.

"We’re happy the issue has finally been resolved by the Supreme Court. We thank our partners at the NFL for their ongoing support and look forward to providing Super Bowl LIV on CTV with simultaneous substitution," a CTV spokesperson told THR.