A recent poll suggests most people - 51 per cent - watch the Super Bowl primarily for the commercials.
No wonder advertisers pay up to $3-million (U.S.) for a 30-second slice of the action and the creative minds involved are the best Madison Avenue can summon.
Not that Canadians need worry about watching American commercials. Once again this year - thanks to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission - CTV gets to sell out its own lucrative replacement advertising inventory as it piggybacks on the U.S. product.
So Canadians will be relentlessly pounded during the NFL championship game Sunday with substitute commercials, not the prime American ads.
Get ready for CTV to endlessly loop promos for Desperate Housewives, Dr. Oz and the final season of Lost until you think Pants on the Ground is high art by comparison. (Play this drinking game: Take a slug each time you see a CTV plug for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. You will need Al-Anon by the second quarter.)
The CRTC reports that Canadian TV networks dropping American TV Super Bowl commercials for their own ads is the largest annual source of complaint from viewers. Only Quebec's Vidéotron is promising the U.S. broadcast - with commercials intact - on its high-definition feed. Oh, and if you can get U.S. stations on the old bunny ears, you're golden.
Adding to the ire of viewers is the ham-handed way CTV substitutes its signal. During these NFL playoffs, viewers have endured audio dropout, loss of HD, plays being clipped or announcers joined in mid-sentence and the sound mix losing the play-by-play.
What makes the relay-station routine even more ironic is it comes from the network currently broadcasting in-house commercials about the death of local TV programming at the hands of dreaded cable companies. Hmmm ...
(CTVglobemedia Inc. owns CTV and is also the parent company of The Globe and Mail.)
Outside of Dwight Freeney's gammy ankle, the biggest story thus far at Super Bowl XLIV is commercials in/out of the CBS TV broadcast (now finally sold out). Exhibit A is the pro-life advertorial by U.S. college football star Tim Tebow for a conservative Christian group called Focus on the Family.
For the first time, a Super Bowl broadcaster is allowing politicized content, breaking a long-standing tradition of shilling strictly for material goods. Media reports have said the ad recounts how Tebow's mother had fallen ill when pregnant with him. She was advised to have an abortion but decided to carry it to term. Voila, a future Heisman Trophy winner was born.
Focus on the Family describes it as "very pro-family, and it's an inspirational, aspirational and hopeful ad." CBS says times are a-changin' in a business scrambling for relevance.
"We have for some time moderated our approach to advocacy submissions, after it became apparent that our stance did not reflect public sentiment or industry norms," CBS flack Dana McClintock announced.
But there's moderation and then there's moderation. So last week, CBS rejected this droll commercial from Mancrunch.com, a gay men's dating site.
"CBS standards and practices has ... concluded that the creative [content]is not within the network's broadcast standards for Super Bowl Sunday," CBS told the Mancrunch folks. "Moreover, our sales department has had difficulty verifying your organization's credit status." (Okay, who forgot to pay the MasterCard?)
Apparently "public sentiment or industry norms" don't affect CBS' prime-time lineup where gay characters (albeit non-kissing ones) are now a fixture on lucrative comedies and dramas.
Translation: CBS doesn't want to annoy the fatted calf of the NFL, where gay still means happy and John 3:16 is not a quarterback's passer rating.
Which leads to this Usual Suspects fearless prediction: We will have a pro-choice commercial debate for the broadcast of Super Bowl XLV in 2011.
H-E-Double Hockey Sticks
More on CBS's moderation. According to oregonlive.com, the U.S. network doesn't like the tagline on a Super Bowl commercial for the EA video game Dante's Inferno. The original line read "Go To Hell." The tender sensibilities at CBS thought that "too provocative." The new tagline? "Hell Awaits." Oh, now we feel better.
Anybody Got A Pair?
Finally, all media covering the Super Bowl can sign up at the media centre to receive a free tickets to tonight's Calgary Flames-Florida Panthers NHL tilt in nearby Sunrise, Fla. If you're really nice, the Panthers might see fit to give you two pairs of tickets. Or an entire section. Or your own luxury box. Because hockey's very popular in SoFla.