Bell, NFL Attempt Last Minute ‘Hail Mary’ to Sack Super Bowl Ad Ruling

Bell Media and the NFL filed formal notices of appeal yesterday in court, as both try last ditch attempts to punt the CRTC’s decision of banning Canadian TV ads on U.S. networks here during the Super Bowl, known as simultaneous substitution (sim-sub).

Bell Media owns NFL broadcasting rights in Canada and hopes the Trudeau government will step in and overrule the CRTC before the appeal is heard.

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“Today’s submission is just the latest procedure in an ongoing legal process,” the company said to CBC News yesterday, adding “But there is a growing community of voices highlighting the negative impact of this decision on the Canadian creative and broadcasting industry.”

The CRTC ruled last year Super Bowl sim-subs would be banned in Canada, starting in 2017, which includes the upcoming championship game set to take place on February 5.

Back in late October, the Federal Court of Appeal allowed a previous court appeal upholding the ban, but did not approve a stay of the ruling until the case could be heard in court.

U.S. political leaders have chimed in on the matter, including Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio. In Canada, Liberal MPs Bob Nault and Wayne Easter have also backed Bell by urging the CRTC to overturn its ruling, citing how the decision will cost the Canadian economy tens of millions of dollars.

Support for Bell and the NFL also comes from union Unifor; the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA); the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA); the U.S. Commerce Department; and the U.S. House of Representatives’ Northern Border caucus.

Timing is crucial for Bell Media, as the company looks to secure ad dollars for the Super Bowl, the most watched TV event in Canada (8.26 million viewers) and the USA (115.2 million) last year.

Bell and the NFL want an order to set aside the CRTC ruling, arguing the latter has no jurisdiction to prevent sim-subs under its own regulations, citing it contravenes the Copyright Act.

The NFL accused the CRTC of using legal challenges to slow the court case “in an apparent attempt to run out the clock and sidestep the challenge” while urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to intervene.

The League added it was “confident that the Government of Canada will act reasonably and responsibly before the 2017 Super Bowl to address this arbitrary attempt by the CRTC to disadvantage not only the NFL, but Canadian broadcasters and the Canadian creative community as well.”

A CRTC spokeswoman declined to comment on the case, as it’s before the courts.

What do you think? Do you want to see Canadian ads or U.S. ads during the Super Bowl on CTV?

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