Five ways for Montrealers to watch U.S. Super Bowl ads

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

12 thoughts on “Five ways for Montrealers to watch U.S. Super Bowl ads

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Presumably, the Seattle station would not be time-shifted and would be carrying the Super Bowl live. If so, it’s subject to the same simultaneous substitution rules – the standard definition feed must be substituted. (Videotron doesn’t carry the time-shifting stations in HD.)

      Reply
  1. Mathieu

    How funny that the SD channel 53 (WCAX) is NOT carrying the US feed but its HD equivalent is. Selling more HD subscriptions Videotron ?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Videotron is required to substitute the standard definition feed of WCAX (Channel 53) with the SD feed of CFCF (Channel 7) by CRTC rules. That requirement isn’t present for the HD channel (Channel 653) only because CFCF isn’t broadcasting in HD. It has nothing to do with marketing (although Videotron is advertising the fact that it’s making use of the loophole).

      Reply
  2. Fassero

    Oh there’s no shortage of Canadians who think SSS stinks on many, if not all, those 364 other days. Even so, we all take gratification that CTV literally jammed the commercial time for Winter Olympics plugs instead of anything that actually makes them ad revenue. Nice to know the next time they go out crying poverty and putting “local TV’ on the chopping block as a threat.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Oh there’s no shortage of Canadians who think SSS stinks on many, if not all, those 364 other days.

      Though that’s usually because of technical problems (incorrect timing, poor signal, etc.) than a desire to see U.S. commercials.

      Reply
      1. Franc

        Still, it’s quite a pain in the butt!

        It was also very annoying when Global had the terrible habit of putting “On Global” on every title card of shows they broadcasted (thank God they stopped that).

        I just don’t understand why Global and CTV insist on airing so many American TV shows. Maybe if they would spend more money on original Canadian content, instead of paying for an American series and imposing itself on the American affiliate.

        Reply
      2. Fassero

        Fair comment. But here’s the thing – ask a viewer if they’d prefer those cheesy car dealership commercials stateside over 3,590 plugs reminding people that the Winter Olympics will be broadcast on CTV, what do you think they’d choose? Which brings up another point – CTV can cry all they want about local TV being a money loser but how much “profit” did they actually pull on the Super Bowl. I mean, you didn’t even need two hands to count the number of non-CTV programming ads (read: non-CTV Winter Olympics plugs). They sure aren’t getting $3 million per 30 seconds. Heck, they aren’t even getting a tenth of that. Heck, Global would not only have a flood of ads but would toss in those ultra-annoying superimposed scoreboard and crowd advertiser plugs. Then today, CTV announces a four-year extension of their broadcast agreement with the NFL. Bet on a literal fortune being shelled out (heck, they must have paid through the moon to take the coverage away from Global) and heck knows what they’ll be losing on the Winter Olympics.

        On the other hand, maybe they’ll reap some nice insurance money from the embers of the CJOH fire… [grin]

        Reply
  3. Tux

    Ah, the moronic corporate politics of who gets to watch what. This is what the internet is for, removing artificial borders and letting anyone watch anything they want, anywhere, anytime. Culture no longer needs to be monetized.

    Reply
    1. Franc

      “This is what the internet is for, removing artificial borders and letting anyone watch anything they want”

      Then how do you explain that Canadians can’t view videos on Hulu, CBS.com or the likes? Even some videos on YouTube is geoblocked!

      Reply
  4. Pingback: CFCF sets up HD transmitter to close Super Bowl ad loophole – Fagstein

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