Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A CRTC decision blocking Bell from simultaneously substituting its own advertising over the U.S. Super Bowl broadcast starting in 2017 resulted in a 60-per-cent decline in ad revenue over 2016.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

As it sells ad airtime for next year's Super Bowl, Bell Media is setting prices on the assumption it will once again be able to swap in the CTV television feed – and Canadian ads – over the U.S. big game broadcast in Canada.

BCE Inc., which owns Bell Media, has been fighting an order that prevented that signal swapping – known as simultaneous substitution or "simsub" – starting with the game last February. That change was the result of a 2015 decision from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, stating that simsub would no longer be allowed in broadcasting the Super Bowl beginning in 2017. The rationale for the decision, according to the CRTC, was that the Super Bowl is an unusual case where viewers actually want to see the flashy ads that come out of the United States. But Bell, the NFL and representatives of Canada's advertising industry have argued against the ruling.

The ad sales strategy is the same one that Bell pursued last year. At the time, it had already taken its fight to the Federal Court of Appeal, and also asked for a stay of the simsub change – selling ads on the assumption the stay would come through. That did not happen, though the court granted Bell leave to appeal in November, 2016. The issue is still before the courts. Earlier this month, Bell filed an application asking the CRTC to overturn its ruling.

Story continues below advertisement

Broadcasters sell ads based on estimates of audience size, often based on previous performance, as in the case of the Super Bowl. When the stay did not come through last year, Bell revised its prices downward by about 35 per cent, based on its audience-loss forecast for the big game compared with the previous year. Should its efforts to overturn the simsub decision this year fail, it will have to do so again.

"The pricing was revised, which obviously contributes to delivering less revenue. And we also sold less inventory because of it," said Perry MacDonald, senior vice-president of English television and local sales for Bell Media.

Though Bell does not specify the number of available ad slots that it sold, or by how much that number dropped, the company has said that the combination of lower prices and fewer sales led to an $11-million decline in Super Bowl advertising revenue for this year's game, a 60-per-cent drop compared with the 2016 broadcast.

The game in February drew an average audience of 4.47 million on CTV, CTV Two and TSN – a 39-per-cent drop from the 7.32 million people who tuned in on CTV alone the previous year.

It's difficult to know exactly how much of this decline can be attributed to Canadian viewers migrating to the U.S. Super Bowl feed, which was on Fox this year; ratings measurement firm Numeris says it does not track all of the Fox stations on the Canadian dial and, following the game in February, it would not share any data from those it did track. However, the audience drop differed significantly from Canada's French-language market – ratings for the game on RDS were relatively stable compared with last year – and in the United States, where ratings declined less than 1 per cent.

As with many of its other programs, Bell begins selling ad bundles for the upcoming NFL regular season, playoffs and the Super Bowl after its "upfront" presentations each June and through January, subject to availability. The bulk of the ads are sold on a national network basis, with some additional inventory set aside to air regionally or locally only. As with other programs, the portion of ads available nationally compared with smaller markets depends on advertiser demand.

There is no single price for a Super Bowl ad, according to ad buyers, because marketers who commit to larger deals – buying a bundle of ad time through the season, for example, or signing on to a larger sponsorship of the broadcast – would negotiate prices reflecting their purchase commitment. It also depends on where in the game the ad airs. But generally speaking, in recent years Bell has commanded $150,000 to $190,000 for 30 seconds during the Super Bowl broadcast, with prices rising closer to the game, according to sources. With price adjustments required this year, Bell lost tens of thousands of dollars for every national network ad.

Story continues below advertisement

In addition to price adjustments, in some cases Bell also offered "make-goods" in the form of ad space in future programs to make up for the lost audience.

"Advertisers are being very supportive of our position," Mr. MacDonald said of the sales discussions this year, adding that Bell is prepared to make adjustments again if necessary.

"These are long-valued relationships that we have with advertisers and their agencies. We're going to ensure that they get what they paid for."

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies