Montrealers still screwed for Super Bowl XLVI ads

For information about the latest Super Bowl, click here.

Not much has changed since last year, so I’m sorry to report that Montreal TV viewers will, once again, be largely forced to endure simultaneous substitution during Sunday’s Super Bowl and watch commercials from CTV instead of the originating American network. And cable and satellite providers will have to continue to calmly explain to irate subscribers that they’re only doing what they’re required to do by the CRTC, who will have to explain what “simultaneous substitution” is and why it’s there.

CFCF’s digital transmitter closed the loophole where the high-definition feed wasn’t substituted in Montreal, and now Videotron and other cable providers must replace the WPTZ feed with CFCF in standard and high definition.

Here’s how it works for the various options of getting television:

Over the air

This method gets a significant boost this year, because the Super Bowl is being carried by NBC instead of Fox. Montreal antennas can pick up WPTZ Plattsburgh (650kW) much better than WFFF Burlington (47kW), so more people will be able to watch the Super Bowl this way. But it’s still difficult to capture American stations if you have cheap indoor antennas.

This is the best method (and the only legal one) for Montrealers to get American ads in high definition live, along with the Super Bowl itself.

CFCF will be carrying the Super Bowl, but obviously it has the Canadian ads.

Videotron (analog and digital)

Videotron has resisted substitution, especially for the Super Bowl, and does so only when absolutely necessary. Still, it is required to substitute both the standard and high-definition feeds in the area covered by CFCF.

This means all customers in the following areas will see their signals substituted:

  • Montreal and on-island suburbs
  • Laval
  • The north shore
  • The south shore
  • Joliette
  • St. Jérôme
  • Montérégie
  • St. Jean sur Richelieu
  • Vaudreuil-Dorion

Quebecers outside of Montreal (as defined above) and the Gatineau region (which is part of the footprint of CJOH Ottawa) will not have their signals subtituted and will be able to watch the American ads on NBC channels.

Other cable providers (including Bell Fibe)

Same as Videotron, I’m afraid. They don’t have a choice in the matter.

Bell Satellite TV

Because Bell feeds the same data to all its customers via satellite, it is required (as of 2009) to substitute American feeds with Canadian ones nationwide. So even if you’re in an area not covered by a CTV station, you’re still going to see the CTV ads.

Shaw Direct

Because Shaw Direct includes technology allowing the provider to control what signals individual clients receive, it can implement simultaneous substitution selectively. The result will be similar to cable: substitution in areas covered by CTV stations, no substitution elsewhere.

American satellite providers (DirecTV, Dish Network)

These are technically illegal in Canada, but many people have found ways to get service north of the border, either by pirating them or using fake U.S. addresses. Since these are American providers, they are not subject to simultaneous substitution rules.


There’s no legal way to get the Super Bowl itself online except through ways sanctioned by CTV (they’re not streaming it, but it is available on mobile). There will probably be black-market feeds, but why bother when you can get it in HD on cable or over the air?

The ads are another story. Expect all the good ones to be online shortly after broadcast. In fact, many are already online and creating buzz. YouTube has a special site devoted to Super Bowl ads that you can watch whenever you want, in high definition.


Because most of the loopholes have been closed, there aren’t many bars advertising the American version of the game anymore. To provide a high-definition feed in Montreal, they would either have to set up an antenna capable of receiving the American station or subscribe to an American satellite service and hope nobody notices.

If you spot one that promises to show American ads, let me know in the comments.

Other loopholes

There are also methods that have no guarantee of success. You could try watching west-coast feeds. Some cable companies offer Seattle stations as a way to time-shift, and then forget to do substitution for live events like this. But broadcasters have become wise to people using this loophole and I suspect the chances of it working is low.

You could also, I suppose, just go to Vermont for the weekend and watch the Super Bowl there.

UPDATE (Feb. 3): The Globe and Mail’s Susan Krashinsky explains the reasons why U.S. ads don’t air on Canadian networks. I’d also add that some are for products that simply aren’t available in Canada.

21 thoughts on “Montrealers still screwed for Super Bowl XLVI ads

  1. Michael Black

    NBC is far easier to receive as a DTV signal than when it was analog.

    A loop stuck to a window may do it. Maybe avoid the 1.99 dollar store coax. Some pieces of wire can make a full out bowtie array that works fine indoors, though again, best close to a window.

    But out of curiosity, I tried the dipole I have running along the ceiling for the FM broadcast band, oriented for US reception, and it seemed to work as well for NBC as the home made UHF bowtie.

    It was really difficult to get NBC and CBS in the old days, because of the adjacent local signals, which no longer is a problem. At best it would be snowy with an indoor antenna. NBC and CBS come in perfect, though yes, there are times of drop-off, things like rain or snow may affect reception.

    NBC and CBS are easier to receive than ABC and FOX (oddly enough, that reverses the situation from the days of analog tv). I don’t know what the fussing is about at least this year with the ads on NBC one should fine reception in many cases. Not a lot of fuss needed and once again, likely people who’ve never bothered with over the air reception just parroting back what others have said. I can’t be in a prime location, there’s a school blocking the way in the direction of the US stations.


  2. Sheldon

    We have Shaw satellite service. Last year we watched the game on the West Coast HD feed and the American commercials were not blocked out. Perhaps this year will be different, but we’ll give it a try anyway. Not that big a deal though, as you say, as the ads will be available through other means. Maybe they’ll find a way to black out the Madonna half-time performance and substitute it with Nickelback!

  3. ATSC

    If you’re facing south, and you have nothing major blocking your view. Then a good TV antenna can work for you. You can even place a outdoor antenna indoors. Just make sure its facing south. Thru a window etc.

    Good antennas can be found by looking at the Antennas Direct and Channel Master websites. There are also retail outlets in the Montreal area that carry some of this stuff.

    It’s probably a little late to go get yourself a set-up for this week end. But, plan now so that next year you’ll be ready.

    And as a earlier post points out, getting ABC & FOX has become difficult in the Montreal area. But CBS, NBC and
    PBS are easy to get.

  4. dave

    Did you see that new Aflac commercial on Big Bang Theory the other night? No? Neither did I because i watched CTV feed…and you know what? Who cares! So I’m supposed to forget about all the bells and whistles that my new tv and fibe service bring me so I can hook up two tin cans and coat hanger in hopes that I get a glimpse of the new Pepsi Max ad? I don’t think so. “I only watch the game for the commercials,” has to go down as the most pretensious of all statements…and I love commercials. Used to pay and go see “best of” films and old Cinema Parc.
    I’m looking forward to kick-ass football game…commercials? If there’s good ones I miss…well, that’s what youtube is for.

    1. Dave

      OTA signals are less compressed than your satellite / cable feeds, so “old” antenna technology actually results in a far better bit rate / picture quality.

  5. Alex H

    At this point, there are two issues for Montrealers, which pretty much negate the problems:

    Anyone on the south side of the city (not in the shadow of the mountain) can receive the US channel over the air with even a basic antenna. You could run a piece of coax out the window with a 5 foot piece of speaker wire on the end and get a reasonable signal for the most part. Any bar or such that wants to run the American feed can do likewise, and it’s probably even easier for them to do it… and many of them already have OTA antennas anyway (better picture quality).

    Second, most of the superbowl ads have already been revealed online, including VW, Honda, and so on. You don’t have to watch another superbowl blowout just to get the commercials anymore.

  6. wkh

    Why would anyone tell you in the comments which bars are showing it so it can get into CRTC nose and get them in trouble? ;-)

    This kind of stupid pettiness is why people do things like sign up for Dish and Direct. If I didn’t have a house full of francophones who love francophone tv, I’d do it. I have no idea other than some love of ridiculous legal jargon why any anglo doesn’t.

  7. DMan

    Remember folks, a “coat hanger” or over-the-air antenna provides a better picture as well, as the bit rate is higher and there is less compression than the cable / satellite providers. The best way to watch it though is the raw NBC mux found at 103 degrees on a free-to-air system… the bit rate is about 35 Mbps…. 3.5 times that of cable / satellite services!!!

  8. Francis


    I live in Kirkland a bought this week a DB4 antenna which I installed temporarely off my balcony and fed the cable through the patio door. I get 95% reception of NBC in Platsburgh – TV is ready for my super bowl party tonight :)

    If you live in the West Island area, I strongly recommend you to go to Motrax in Ile Perrot as they have a lot of OTA inventory and have excellent service.

    I purchased the SYN-005 DB4 antenna which was on special for 39$ and it did the trick for me – My kids call it the “Super Bowl Antenna” :)

    If you don’t want to fork out 4o buck and have some 2×4, hangers and some wirng, you can build yourself a DB4 antenna and it works! it’s not as good as the store bought DB4 antenna, but it WILL get you NBC for sure!

    I built one myself and can confirm that it work!

    Happy super bowl,

    kirkland, Qc.

      1. Fagstein Post author

        Well I hope you enjoyed the game considereing it was broadcast on CBS

        You realize you’re replying to a comment from a year ago, right?

        eh eh eh, indeed.

        1. jacques from Laprairie

          DAGNABIT, I could blame it on the delay caused by dialup connection , but I got snoockered by the similarity in story logos,,,

          slightly redfaced Jacques

  9. Gabriel Sanvido

    What’s funny about all this:

    The only time we really want to see ads, the system makes it impossible.

    Commercial Fail.

  10. Sheldon

    We got the American feed for the game tonight, with all the commercials, on the West Coast HD feed on our Shaw Direct satellite service. I didn’t bother to check the east coast stations so I don’t know if they were switched over to the Canadian feed as planned.

  11. Gazoo

    or just opt for the perverbial snack, beverage and bathroom run when the lame Hyundai Sasquatch commercial was played at every break!

  12. Pingback: Super Bowl et pubs : un problème d’image pour les diffuseurs canadiens? | Marie-Claude Ducas

  13. Apple IIGS

    I don’t understand why anyone pays for cable or satellite TV these days. Not only is it a waste of money, the quality of the picture is INFERIOR to the free-to-air broadcast signals.

    I use this inexpensive indoor amplified antenna I picked up a decade ago:

    I get ALL, and yes, I do mean ALL, the American stations. CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and both VPT and WCFE PBS stations. As each contains sub-channels, that is 15 US channels, half of which are in high definition and 5.1 sound.

    The antenna actually sits AWAY from my window, all the way at the far back wall in my living room (presumably it works best there because that is the south wall).

    I also pick up an local Montreal channels (another 8 channels), but apart from the news, I rarely watch them. Plus unlike the US stations, their signals are weak and intermittent. Laughable since I can see the antenna on Mount Royal from my window, yet I cannot pick some of them up.

    No worries about simulcasting, and I save about $50/month. :)

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I don’t understand why anyone pays for cable or satellite TV these days. Not only is it a waste of money, the quality of the picture is INFERIOR to the free-to-air broadcast signals.

      You assume people who subscribe to cable and satellite are only interested in over-the-air networks. There are all sorts of specialty channels that aren’t available over the air.

      People don’t subscribe to cable to get NBC, they subscribe to get Discovery, Space and RDS.

      1. Apple IIGS

        You assume people who subscribe to cable and satellite are only interested in over-the-air networks. There are all sorts of specialty channels that aren’t available over the air.

        People don’t subscribe to cable to get NBC, they subscribe to get Discovery, Space and RDS.

        It was more of a rhetorical statement. I know some people have valid reasons for subscribing to pay-TV services, but the vast majority, at least in my experience, just want something–anything, on their TV to watch. You’d be surprised how many people have no idea most of the channels they regularly watch on cable can be picked up free with simple rabbit ears. Some of the people I’ve told are so shocked by what’s available (and in HD), they think it’s illegal!

        Sure specialty channels are nice, but are there that many worth watching? In my case, after canceling Videotron a decade ago, the only ones I still miss are Space and Discovery. And honestly, how important is live TV these days? This is not the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s when having cable-TV was an essential service if you desired at-home entertainment. :) The Internet for the most part has taken the place of television.


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