Note: This post has been updated for the 2011 Super Bowl. For the latest on Super Bowl ads on Canadian cable and satellite, click here.
For 364 days a year, Canadians don’t care about what the CRTC calls “simultaneous substitution” – the policy whereby cable and satellite providers replace a U.S. channel with a Canadian one when both are running the same program. (The logic behind this is so the Canadian station gets all the Canadian viewers and can charge higher advertising rates.)
For Montrealers especially, the U.S. ads are pretty forgettable. Local ads for Burlington businesses or ads for products and services that Canadians don’t get. Besides, commercials in general are meant to be ignored. Nobody really cares whether the Ford ad lists prices in Canadian or U.S. dollars.
But then there’s Super Bowl Sunday. And while two teams fight for the National Football League’s championship trophy, many television viewers will be looking at the full experience, which includes a halftime show and insanely-expensive commercials. Advertisers turn Super Bowl commercials into events, building up hype and spending through the nose on celebrities and special effects to justify the through-the-nose spending they’re doing just to get the airtime.
So if you’re a Montrealer watching the Super Bowl and want the U.S. commercials, what can you do?
Here are your options:
- Watch the U.S. network over the air. As much as the CRTC would like, it can’t stop U.S. stations from transmitting across the border. So you can hook up an antenna and watch it that way. The U.S. network affiliates in Vermont and New York have good coverage in Montreal if you have a good antenna. The catch is that since 2009 they broadcast only in digital, which means you need a television with a digital tuner (most recent HDTVs have this) or a converter box (like this one or this one). Elias Makos has more details for Montrealers wanting to watch U.S. stations over the air.
- Watch west-coast feeds. This method has mixed success. The cable and satellite companies are supposed to replace all feeds they’re asked to, but some forget (or aren’t asked?) to do this for west coast feeds, which carry the Super Bowl live at the same time as the east-coast stations do. There’s no guarantee of success with this.
- Watch the ads online. These advertisers aren’t about to sue people who put their ads online, and they’re more than welcome to you watching them as many times as you want after the game. YouTube and Spike TV have special sites setup with Super Bowl commercials. The latter includes an archive of past Super Bowl ads. Adweek has a section on Super Bowl ads too
- Get the feed illegally. If you subscribe to DirecTV or other U.S.-based satellite services, this whole post is moot and you’ll get the U.S. feeds. You can also try hunting for website streaming the Super Bowl from a U.S. location, but the NFL works diligently to shut those down, and if the entire point is to watch the ads, then you might as well just go to YouTube and see them there legally.
- Go to a friend’s house or bar that has done one of the above. Of course, the harder it is for you to get the feed, the harder it is for them too.
Ways that no longer work:
Watch the U.S. network in HD on Videotron Illico digital TV.Videotron made a point of announcing in the past that they would have the U.S. feed untouched in HD. They can no longer do this for customers in the Montreal area with the setup of CFCF-DT in 2011. Watch the game on Bell TV.The CRTC closed a loophole in 2009 that would have allowed Bell to give most of its subscribers access to the U.S. Super Bowl feed. If you use Bell TV satellite service, you’re out of luck.