CRTC gets testy about simultaneous substitution during Super Bowl

It started with a simple to-the-point reply from a Rogers Twitter account to a Rogers cable customer complaining that the San Francisco-Seattle NFL playoff game on FOX had been replaced with the same broadcast from CTV containing CTV commercials.

But for CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais, it was a source of “dismay” because it provided “contradictory information.” So he sent a letter to Rogers asking for them to make sure their customer service agents provide more accurate information about the nature of simultaneous substitution, and file a report about its training methods.

Specifically, Blais notes that it’s up to the Canadian broadcaster to request simultaneous substitution, and both the broadcaster and the distributor (the cable, satellite or IPTV company) to ensure it’s done properly.

When I first read the letter last week, I thought maybe Blais had become confused, mistaking Rogers the broadcaster for Rogers the distributor. If CTV had blamed the CRTC for this, it would have been one thing, but Rogers is required by CRTC regulation to follow CTV’s request for substitution. So why is the CRTC getting mad at Rogers?

A call from the commission’s communications department, which actively monitors what people say on Twitter about the commission, reassured me that there was no error here. Blais simply wants a more accurate answer to these complaints and for everyone to stop blaming the CRTC.

Except the CRTC is to blame here. And what Rogers answered may not have been complete, but it wasn’t incorrect.

Three hours a year

This Sunday is the Super Bowl. It’s the biggest event in American television, and the only three hours a year when Canadians actually want to watch U.S. ads, because of the hype that has been built up about the creativity that go into the hugely expensive spots.

Normally, Canadians couldn’t care less that they don’t see ads for DirecTV, Verizon, U.S. politicians or other things that have no relevance to them. But on Super Bowl Sunday, it’s not that we want to know any more about those services, it’s that we want to get a glimpse of how those services are advertised.

So around this time is when people start complaining to the CRTC about simultaneous substitution, the practice whereby a Canadian distributor is required to replace distant television feeds with local stations when the two are carrying identical programming. (Theoretically it applies to Canadian feeds as well, but it’s mainly used by CTV, Global and City to take control of advertising on the big four U.S. networks.) The substitution is optional for the local station, which could choose to not ask for the feed to be substituted (but why wouldn’t they?). But if they ask, the distributor is required to comply.

The complaints go up so much around the Super Bowl that the CRTC has a special page on its website just to explain it in that context.

There are complaints the rest of the year too. Sometimes, like in the case above, people are annoyed at the excessive promotional ads by the Canadian broadcaster. In many cases, the problem is that the substitution is done incorrectly, causing Canadian customers to miss parts of their programming. This usually happens during live programming that goes beyond its scheduled end time (the Super Bowl itself is an example of these kinds of events), when the same Canadian network does not simultaneously air the program that follows it.

In these cases, it’s up to both the broadcaster and the distributor to ensure that substitution happens properly. But that’s not easy. Even discounting live programs like sports events or awards shows, there are all sorts of TV series that start and end a minute or two after the half-hour mark, or even just a few seconds because the networks’ feeds aren’t synchronized with each other. It’s enough to cut off the end of the credits for one show or the beginning of the opening for another.

What if we just got rid of it?

For many Canadians, the solution is simple: End the practice of simultaneous substitution. It makes things easier for the distributors, it gives us the freedom to watch either the U.S. or Canadian feed according to our preference, and it might even encourage Canadian broadcasters to be more innovative without relying on the crutch of buying U.S. programs and selling ads against them. (The fact that Bell airs even regular-season NFL games on CTV and CTV Two but puts the Grey Cup, Canada’s pro football championship, on TSN is mainly because of simultaneous substitution, and a prime example of why the policy could actually be detrimental to Canadian broadcasting.)

There’s some logic to these arguments, which have been heard by the CRTC as part of its Let’s Talk TV campaign, which will lead to hearings on TV policy later this year. Ending simultaneous substitution would have its advantages:

  1. Canadians would have the freedom to watch U.S. ads when they choose to do so, such as during the Super Bowl
  2. There would be no more substitution errors cutting off the beginning and ending of shows
  3. Distributors would save on resources that could be put to better use elsewhere
  4. U.S. border stations could target Canadian cities and ad revenue would go more directly to the networks that actually make the shows
  5. U.S. border stations would not have to engage in schedule wars to get around simultaneous substitution, and similarly Canadian networks would not be a slave to U.S. network schedules
  6. Canadian broadcasters would lose their incentive to schedule popular U.S. shows in the best time slots and would be encouraged to produce more original programming

That all sounds great, but what would really happen if the CRTC just ended this policy?

First of all, it would be pretty disastrous to the big three conventional television networks: CTV, Global and City, not to mention . Though their parent companies are quite rich, the networks are struggling to break even. CRTC statistics show that the private conventional television industry lost money in four of the five years from 2008 to 2012. (In Quebec, it made money in each of those years, so we can assume the losses are even higher in English Canada.) Rogers tells the CRTC in its licence renewal that it plans to lose $17.7 million next year for the City network, and another $12 million with OMNI if it doesn’t get relief on its conditions of licence.

Specialty channels, particularly older ones with wide distribution, are very profitable, with some having margins around 50%. But conventional television networks aren’t a prerequisite for specialty channels, so if conventional TV’s business model is yanked out from under it, we could eventually see City, Global and even CTV networks collapse, wiping out most local television along with it.

Simultaneous substitution isn’t just about making an easy buck. It’s also a very strong promotional tool. When City got the Grammys for the first time this year, it went all out promoting it, and aired an original red-carpet special that lasted an hour and a half. During the show itself, which was substituted on CBS, City promoted just about every program it aired, knowing that this was the biggest audience it would have access to. In fact, the Grammys turned out to draw the largest audience in City’s history. And it meant a lot of people being exposed to promotions for the rest of its primetime lineup as well as original shows like Breakfast Television.

City, of course, is owned by Rogers. So, for Rogers to blame the CRTC for forcing simultaneous substitution on it is a bit hypocritical since it’s one of the companies that benefits most from it.

The argument that Canadian broadcasters would be forced to stand on their own two feet and present more original programs sounds promising. And there’s some logic to it. U.S. primetime schedules lock up the hours of 8pm to 11pm six days a week (nobody really cares about Saturdays), leaving Canadian hours to the news hours of 6pm and 11pm, and Saturday nights. There’s also the miscellaneous 7pm hour weekdays, which CTV and Global have filled with celebrity gossip shows and City uses to air reruns of Modern Family.

But original programming is expensive, more so than acquiring foreign programs, even as those costs go up now that City has become more of a national player competing for them. And removing from the Canadian networks a major source of revenue isn’t going to give them more money to develop their own programs (most of which they don’t really own anyway because they have to use independent producers, as Rogers recently complained to the CRTC).

And the argument that Canadian broadcasters hide their Canadian shows in low-rated time periods doesn’t hold much water anymore. CTV’s new series Masterchef Canada airs Mondays at 8pm, and has been given a very high-value promotional spot airing right after the Super Bowl. Its medical drama Saving Hope airs Thursdays at 9pm. The mega-hit The Amazing Race Canada aired at 9pm on Mondays. Global put Bomb Girls on Wednesdays at 8pm. City puts Storage Wars Canada on Sundays at 8pm, and its original animated series Mother Up! on Thursday nights. These are hardly low-value time slots.

Even if you don’t care about Canadian networks or Canadian programming, ending simultaneous substitution could have unintended consequences that might be even worse. U.S. networks, not wanting to lose the extra revenue that comes from Canadian licensing fees, could seek more money or other compensation from U.S. border stations. Or they could demand blackouts like you see with out-of-market hockey games. Or the CRTC could simply disallow the distribution of American networks in Canada (which probably won’t happen if only because of the public outrage that would ensue).

The legality of it all is a bit murky because simultaneous substitution itself sits kind of set apart from the rest of copyright law. U.S. stations aren’t compensated for being distributed in Canada (something they’re not happy about), but it’s allowed because the first cable companies captured U.S. signals off the air and distributed them to customers. Simultaneous substitution was a compromise (proposed by the cable industry) to allow U.S. stations to continue being distributed while safeguarding Canadian broadcasters’ rights when they bought exclusive Canadian rights to a broadcast.

Without it, Canadian advertising money would flow across that border to the U.S. stations. It’s a hard argument to make that giving the advertising money to U.S. stations instead of Canadian ones helps the broadcasting system.

So where do we go from here?

Simultaneous substitution will probably be one of the issues discussed by the CRTC this year. Blais said it’s time for everyone to “start speaking up on simultaneous substitution,” so clearly he’s willing to listen.

But despite its very pro-consumer bend of late, the CRTC’s mandate is to protect the broadcasting system, not just the consumer. If ending simultaneous substitution does more harm than good, then the CRTC won’t do that.

There are alternatives. One is non-simultaneous substitution, where the Canadian network controls the ads even if it doesn’t air the show at the same time. This would free the Canadian network to make up its schedule as it sees fit, even intentionally offer counter-programming to give people more choice. It would also mean not having to redo the schedule every quarter based on what U.S. shows the Canadian network has the rights to. But it would require some technical infrastructure, because distributors would need to store ads for later playback, or the Canadian network would need to provide a feed for each of the U.S. networks it may wish to substitute.

All of that should be discussed at the hearing. And the CRTC will take careful consideration before coming to a decision. If this episode with Rogers has taught us anything, it’s that it’s paying close attention to what people are saying.

If you have a solution that ends simultaneous substitution but also has a workable business model for Canadian television, I’m sure the CRTC is all ears.

How to get your Super Bowl ads

CTV owns the rights to the Super Bowl, so in areas with a local CTV station (including greater Montreal and Gatineau), TV distributors are required to substitute the Fox signal. But there are alternatives if you really want those commercials:

  • Watch Fox over the air: The transmitter for WFFF-TV on Mount Mansfield is 47kW, which isn’t very strong. TVFool rates it the weakest of the Burlington/Plattsburgh stations in terms of signal strength when receiving from Montreal. So it’ll be very difficult to capture it over an antenna.
  • Watch the commercials online. YouTube’s Ad Blitz channel plans to post commercials as they air in real-time. They will be available elsewhere too. Advertisers want you to see their ads no matter where you are. In fact, many of them are already online because the advertisers want to capitalize on pre-game buzz.
  • Find some pirated Fox feed online. This sounds like more trouble than it’s worth to me, but if you’re really desperate to watch the game and the ads on the same channel, you can try to find some feed (probably severely compressed) that’s illegally streaming a Fox station somewhere in the U.S.
  • Go to a bar promising U.S. commercials. Here’s one that did it last year and again this year. There are probably others.

Those who live in areas not served by a CTV station (like Quebec City or Sherbrooke) can still get the U.S. feed on cable, since simultaneous substitution only applies to a station’s local coverage area. Bell satellite customers are stuck with substitution no matter where they live.

Other coverage

UPDATE: Rogers’s Twitter account has been a bit more explanatory in responses about simultaneous substitution during the Super Bowl:

24 thoughts on “CRTC gets testy about simultaneous substitution during Super Bowl

  1. Marc

    Yeah…I’m with the crowd chanting to end the SimSub insanity. But it’s all about money. And to the viewer, aka. the consumer of the product: well, screw you.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      And to the viewer, aka. the consumer of the product: well, screw you.

      Is the consumer really getting screwed by watching Canadian ads instead of U.S. ads during their programs?

      Reply
  2. Bon

    When you say how Canadian shows decent time slots you forget to mention that the amount of money they are given to produce an original programming compared to the United States is the difference between crappy television ie Bomb girls vs Breaking Bad. I

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      the amount of money they are given to produce an original programming compared to the United States is the difference between crappy television ie Bomb girls vs Breaking Bad.

      I would think it obvious that more money means better shows. Though I don’t think it’s fair to compare a Canadian network program with a U.S. premium pay TV show. The difference in size between the two countries is enough to explain the difference in means.

      Reply
  3. Dilbert

    The problem here is that if the Canadian industry has to be propped up by truly artificial means, then perhaps we as a people have already made our choices. The CRTC is essentially mandating a system that goes against the will of the people “for the good of the people”, yet there is little evidence to support it in the long run.

    Rather, it shows that Canadian broadcasters, rather than creating their own content, are mostly focuses on licensing content from the US and then using that license to force Canadians to view their channel. That doesn’t really do much for Canadian artists, and rather shows a system that has turned the broadcasters into a sort of drug addict who can only support their habit through (CRTC mandated and approved) prostitution of their airwaves.

    What it means is that the millions (and billions) charged to Canadian advertisers is then pretty much completely funneled to the US productions, and not into the Canadian system. Only a small percentage of the funds really stay in Canada, which is really quite harmful to the system.

    Moreover, networks (lets use the powerful CTV as an example) also are self defeating when it comes to commercial time per hour. Canadian stations run more ads, cut the content to the bone, and side by side, represent a poorer entertainment choice. Typically, it means that any musical bumpers or extra scenes (coming up next week, example) are removed, to make way for more commercials. It means that CTV tends to come back from commercial not at the end of the break, but right at the point of the first words spoken in that next act. It’s death by a thousand cuts, and when given the choice, the consumer would rather just tune to the original (from the border station) and enjoy the content as intended, and not as chopped up by the broadcasters.

    The real problem that faces the CRTC is that all of this time, they have allowed the “addicted” networks to build more and more of their business on sim-sub income and little else. It’s one of the many reasons you don’t see very much in the way of original local programming in their lineups anymore. They can just pay the licensing fee, let the US networks dictate their schedule, and call it a day – and take the income to the bank. Taking it away directly would be a death sentence for “broadcasters” who are effectively just repeaters.

    Worse yet, of course, is that many of the major broadcast companies are also monopoly or duopoly distributors, and they make money by charging for US channels – which they promptly sim-sub through most of the evenings. So they collect a fee for the US channels, and then run their ads on them. It’s not surprising that they haven’t said anything against a system that has them lining their pockets coming and going.

    As for broadcasters losing money, the real reasons are pretty simple: Too much of the income goes to the US, more of the income goes towards “network” fees, and the local affiliate stations are no longer significantly different one from the other. Many of the local stations are not even functionally full broadcasters anymore, just repeater stations with limited local staff, perhaps a single studio, and they don’t even load or switch their own programming. All of the money to do those things of course are paid to the central office. So while broadcasters (on a local level) are losing money, the networks themselves turn profits. Crying poor while draining off all of the income isn’t exactly a truthful way to describe the business.

    You know why the French stations make money in Quebec? Quite simply, they actually operate as full on content producers and broadcasters, keeping the money in the local system and generally supporting themselves. Local content matters, and they are proving it.

    Sim-sub needs to go, plain and simple, no matter the “harm”, as it’s no different from making a drug addict go cold turkey. You might hate the middle part where they are sick and sweat, but the results on the other side are usually much better once the addiction has be overcome.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Canadian broadcasters, rather than creating their own content, are mostly focuses on licensing content from the US and then using that license to force Canadians to view their channel.

      No Canadian is being forced to watch any television channel. Sure, simsub does limit freedom to watch foreign TV channels, but any exclusivity agreement limits people’s choices.

      What it means is that the millions (and billions) charged to Canadian advertisers is then pretty much completely funneled to the US productions, and not into the Canadian system. Only a small percentage of the funds really stay in Canada, which is really quite harmful to the system.

      How is having the ad money going directly to U.S. stations better for the Canadian system then?

      It’s not like Canadian productions are subsidizing the purchase of U.S. programs. It’s the reverse.

      It’s one of the many reasons you don’t see very much in the way of original local programming in their lineups anymore.

      We don’t see much original local programming on TV because it’s not profitable. That won’t change regardless of whether we have simsub.

      It’s not surprising that they haven’t said anything against a system that has them lining their pockets coming and going.

      I’m sure Bell, Shaw and Rogers will have plenty to say about simultaneous substitution when it comes up. And as I point out, they’re not making money off conventional television to line their pockets with.

      As for broadcasters losing money, the real reasons are pretty simple: Too much of the income goes to the US, more of the income goes towards “network” fees

      I don’t know what “network fees” means.

      Many of the local stations are not even functionally full broadcasters anymore, just repeater stations with limited local staff, perhaps a single studio, and they don’t even load or switch their own programming.

      Yep. Master control is expensive, and Bell, Shaw and Rogers have all decided that centralizing them and other overhead saves money. Makes sense, no?

      All of the money to do those things of course are paid to the central office.

      Paid by whom? These broadcasters run as one company, as you point out. Nobody needs to pay anyone else.

      So while broadcasters (on a local level) are losing money, the networks themselves turn profits.

      That’s not true according to CRTC data, unless you have some alternative data that shows otherwise.

      You know why the French stations make money in Quebec? Quite simply, they actually operate as full on content producers and broadcasters, keeping the money in the local system and generally supporting themselves. Local content matters, and they are proving it.

      There are many differences between English and French television in Canada, and discussion of them all would take too long. But French television networks in Canada aren’t more local than English ones. TVA just added weekend local news in Quebec City after its last licence renewal, and V has virtually no local programming whatsoever. The French networks do produce more original programming than the English ones do, but that’s because there’s more demand among French TV viewers for that programming.

      Sim-sub needs to go, plain and simple, no matter the “harm”, as it’s no different from making a drug addict go cold turkey. You might hate the middle part where they are sick and sweat, but the results on the other side are usually much better once the addiction has be overcome.

      But what are those results going to be? Is Canadian TV really going to beat out American TV for viewers if viewers are given the choice? History suggests that for the most part it won’t.

      Reply
      1. Dilbert

        “No Canadian is being forced to watch any television channel. Sure, simsub does limit freedom to watch foreign TV channels, but any exclusivity agreement limits people’s choices.”

        The thing is, the exclusive agreement does not includes sim-sub, sim-sub is a “made in canada” patch that the CRTC has granted to allow the Canadian stations to profit from the US programming – essentially eliminating competition from the US stations on cable and sat tv. If you have cable or a sat, and you want to watch the super bowl, (or CSI, or any other marginally popular show) you will be forced to watch it on a Canadian channel, even if you have paid to have access to the US networks.

        “How is having the ad money going directly to U.S. stations better for the Canadian system then? It’s not like Canadian productions are subsidizing the purchase of U.S. programs. It’s the reverse.”

        If the Canadian stations offered the same quality of product (signal, length, content), the viewers wouldn’t want the US product. The desire for the US product is generally because it is superior is all sorts of small ways, which adds up to a better product. People tune to the US network when possible because the quality of the overall package is better, the commercial breaks are shorter (and generally less annoying) and none of the extra material (like previews) are missing.

        Understand that without simsub, the Canadian channels would pay less for the rights, which resolves the issue at that point, they could also charge the advertisers less as a result of not having an additional captive marketplace. Since border stations generally only get to put in 1 or 2 local ads per hour, you wouldn’t see Canadian Tire rushing to buy ads over the border.

        “I’m sure Bell, Shaw and Rogers will have plenty to say about simultaneous substitution when it comes up. And as I point out, they’re not making money off conventional television to line their pockets with.”

        Not entirely true. You have to look at the structure of their business to understand that they transfer costs down through the system to the local affiliate, effectively rendering them penniless. You don’t think the switching done in Toronto by the “network” to run the local Montreal newscast is free, right? They pay the big price for the service, and every other “network service” around. If I remember correctly from a chart a few years back, many of those companies providing the services are NOT strictly considered as “broadcast” companies, which means that many of the expenses have money flowing out of broadcast and into “other services”. Remember, Bell, Rogers, and all net out billions (with a b) dollars a year overall. They would not be in the broadcast game and wouldn’t be rapidly expanding their positions in it if they were not making money. They just don’t show the profits directly on the broadcast side otherwise the CRTC might reject their next rate increase requests.

        “I don’t know what “network fees” means.” and “Yep. Master control is expensive, and Bell, Shaw and Rogers have all decided that centralizing them and other overhead saves money. Makes sense, no?”

        You answered yourself, in part. There are fees and royalties paid for programming and services being part of the network. Moreover, because Bell (and Rogers…) have centralized many services, they “charge” the local affiliates for those services. The head office may be saving money, but you can be sure the captive (owned) affiliates are paying dearly for those services – full pin pricing, you can be sure. It’s a way to make sure the money flows away from the affiliates (keeping them poor and letting the owners claim poverty every time the CRTC tries to get them to do anything) and allows the money to move up the ladder to other places.

        “These broadcasters run as one company”

        They run one brand, but they are not exactly one company. General business stucture (without going into to much detail) is that each operation is it’s own company, generally 100% owned by BCE or Bell Media Holdings, or whatever the current name is. It is done this way for a whole lot of reasons, from liability to taxation, allowing larger conglomerates to separate out their tax burdens more accurately by province, and so on. Most companies tend to use it for minimizing tax burdens by moving money around through the use of internal expenses and such. Many branded companies have all of their “brand” assets in a holding company, which in turn “leases” that brand to the actual operating companies.

        In extreme cases (not related to Bell or Rogers, from what I can see) companies use offshore companies to have an even more important impact on their bottom line, check the fancy term “double irish with a dutch sandwich” for examples of how that works.

        “But what are those results going to be? Is Canadian TV really going to beat out American TV for viewers if viewers are given the choice? History suggests that for the most part it won’t.”

        If the Canadian channels offer an equal (or better) product, if they give people a reason to tune in, they will. If they insist on cutting content and adding more commercials, they will find themselves unable to compete. It’s truly funny to watch them sim-sub something and be forced to run the same “musical montage of a show” filler to cover up because they have weak ad sales anyway. It’s annoying to know that you cut back to a program 15 seconds too late and cut off 10 seconds too early just because they wanted to stuff in another commercial. Under those conditions, you are right, they will not be able to compete.

        You have to figure it this way: The US networks producing the content are happy to license to the Canadians because they are paying them more for it than any extra income they can generate themselves from their own broadcasts. Generally, their advertisers won’t pay extra for the overlap into Canada. Simsub has been used as a way to pump up the revenues of the Canadian stations, but all it has done has given them more money to use to pay for the US content, and they generally pay more as a result. It means that any boost in income isn’t staying here, it’s just going to the US.

        So how do Canadian channels compete? Simply they need to offer a reason for your TV to be tuned to the and not the US station naturally. That is usually done by offered programming that keeps them tuned in, and offering it with the same or better quality that what is coming from the US. Leveraging local news and locally produced programming that will encourage people to tune in. Basically, they can do it without simsub if they just stop being hacks and get back to giving the people what they want, not what they are forced to endure.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Not entirely true. You have to look at the structure of their business to understand that they transfer costs down through the system to the local affiliate, effectively rendering them penniless.

          Do you have evidence that any of the Canadian networks is manipulating its financial reports to deceive the CRTC? Even if that was their goal, this wouldn’t accomplish it, because Bell and Shaw have group licences and report financial information as a network, not as individual stations.

          Remember, Bell, Rogers, and all net out billions (with a b) dollars a year overall.

          But those billions don’t come out of their conventional television networks. They come mainly out of their telecom services. Their media divisions get most of their money through specialty television channels.

          They would not be in the broadcast game and wouldn’t be rapidly expanding their positions in it if they were not making money.

          Who’s “rapidly expanding their positions”? With the exception of Rogers’s purchase of CJNT in Montreal and the educational network in Saskatchewan, none of the over-the-air broadcast networks has expanded in a decade. There have been zero applications for new conventional television stations from the big players in the past five years, and their networks have shrunk, not grown. Both CTV and Global have shut down stations on their secondary networks.

          There are fees and royalties paid for programming and services being part of the network. Moreover, because Bell (and Rogers…) have centralized many services, they “charge” the local affiliates for those services.

          First of all, there are no local affiliates that belong to the same network, because they’re owned-and-operated stations. And as I understand the accounting process, there is no “charging” of fees to those stations because those stations are not independent entities financially. That’s the whole point of centralizing administration and of having group licences. But if you have evidence that Rogers or Bell is engaging in financial fraud to deceive the CRTC, please let them know.

          General business stucture (without going into to much detail) is that each operation is it’s own company, generally 100% owned by BCE or Bell Media Holdings, or whatever the current name is.

          According to the CRTC, Bell Media Inc. is the direct licensee of all CTV O&O stations. Rogers Broadcasting Ltd. is the direct licensee of all City and OMNI O&O stations, and Shaw Television Limited Partnership is the direct licensee of all Global O&O stations.

          All three companies have parent companies with more complex structures. Usually the reason for that is because of shared ownership of specialty channels or because of the way specialty channels were acquired. But for the conventional television networks, they’re all owned and managed as one company.

          If the Canadian channels offer an equal (or better) product, if they give people a reason to tune in, they will.

          And how will they do that with a fraction of the budget because they have a fraction of the audience?

          Reply
          1. Dilbert

            “for the conventional television networks, they’re all owned and managed as one company.”

            Yup, something they have fixed in the last few years, it use to be a huge mess of overlapping companies and such. Although, there is a Bell Media and Bell Media in Quebec, not sure if there is a real difference.

            However, it remains the same problem. As affiliate stations, they could to some extend choose their programming and such, and sell more local ads. As part of the bigger picture, that money all flows up the chain. The biggest expenses are programming, and that is key.

            I will take back the rest of it, without knowing the specific internal workings of Bell and the other network globs, we can only look from the outside and say “wow, a billion dollars profit…”.

            “And how will they do that with a fraction of the budget because they have a fraction of the audience?”

            Simple: With a fraction of the audience, the value of the rights drops. Perhaps it’s key here, that the problem of expensive programming is a result of the sim-sub market, which increases ad rates, but not enough to make up for the costs of simsub – so they get MORE programming, to try to make more ad dollars…. chasing their tails and losing all the way down the line.

            Quite simply, the cost of programming is what it is. Bell / Rogers / whoever need to present it in a format that gets Canadians to watch the local version, or they need to stop paying for it and get some other programming, even if it’s cheaper, locally produced stuff, or longer local news, or leveraging the national news with a 6:30PM version or whatever. Perhaps they could obtain the rights at a lower cost if they ran them 1 day later, or whatever. You never know.

            If the numbers as reported to the CRTC are true, then it appears that sim-sub doesn’t do anything except drive up the cost of programming, and limit the choices for Canadians, most of whom can already receive the same material over the air from US border stations. There seems to be very little put forward as true Canadian content.

            Moreover, the reality is this: Bell ran mostly promotion for Bell programming during the superbowl, and all of the networks seem to run a disproportionate amount of self-promotion during their programming. They seem to have a similar problem during their prime programming, which suggests that they have a real problem with filling available time as it is.

            It all gets back to the same thing: If you are going to offer exactly the same product at exactly the same time, figure out a way to make it’s presentation compelling to the audience to the point that they choose to tune to your station instead of the US station. Otherwise, consider offering OTHER programming, perhaps driving viewership by being (gasp) different.

            They only need a fraction of the budget when they stop paying outrageously for the rights to US programs.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Bell ran mostly promotion for Bell programming during the superbowl, and all of the networks seem to run a disproportionate amount of self-promotion during their programming.

              Bell actually said it sold out its available spots during the Super Bowl. It reserved some 30-second spots for promoting some of its programs, and had some shorter spots to fill time as necessary. You might not be a big fan of self-promotion, but Bell knew that the Super Bowl would be a chance to get to a bunch of viewers and encourage them to watch other Bell shows and channels. City did the same thing during the Grammys.

              Reply
  4. CraigM

    So sad that instead of being treated to some actual creativity in advertising, viewers here in Canada will be driven bonkers by endless replays of Nissan commercials featuring Bruno Mars’ Locked Out of Heaven with that insipid jungle “whooping”, over, and over again.

    Reply
  5. Mortemer

    Being so close to the US border the installation of an OTA antenna solves the simsub problems with Super Bowl and other sporting events.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      You don’t need to find a pirated feed. Fox is streaming the game themselves, right here:
      http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsportsgo/

      Doesn’t work for Canadians. It requires authentication through a U.S. television provider. CTV has the exclusive online streaming rights in Canada, and will be streaming the game online (with its own commercials, of course)

      Reply
  6. John

    I would just add while the term ‘simultaneous substitution’ is Canadian, the concept is anything but and similar rules in the United States are much stricter.

    I worked at a television station (affiliated to CBS) in the United States, in the shadow of a nearby, larger market (with a CBS owned-and-operated station). As such, there were two CBS stations on cable. We had a button to substitute our signal with the out-of-market station during duplicated programming. And just like here in Canada, there was a less-than-elegant switch and often the programming would get cut off by a second or two.

    Elsewhere where out-of-market stations are on cable, duplicated programming (even when not aired at the same time) is often completely blacked-out.

    If Canada had all the same rules, American networks would be completely black during programming where Canadian rights were purchased irregardless of the exact time that week the program airs. Nor would we have access to various timeshifting channels on cable/satellite.

    As well, it is not just American stations that get substituted in Canada. For instance here in Gatineau, TVA Montréal is on cable and is replaced by TVA Gatineau during networked programming.

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    1. Reciprocal

      When it comes to the retransmission of Canadian signals in the U.S., this above comment is not quite correct.

      When Canadian TV stations, like CTV Toronto, for example are retransmitted in U.S. border communities, like Buffalo, the CTV signal is not blacked out even when it includes U.S. network programming that CTV does not have the rights to in the U.S.

      This means when CTV airs Big Bang Theory and the CTV signals is retransmitted in Buffalo, the CBS program is not blacked out from the CTV signal. It can’t be by regulation, even though CTV does not owns the rights for Buffalo and even if the local CBS affiliate requests that the CTV airing be blacked out.

      If the local signal being retransmitted is on an FCC “significantly viewed” list (and CTV Toronto is), then the programming on that signal cannot be blacked out, even if the signal owner does not own the rights for the programming in the designated market area of the retransmission.

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  7. Derron Sporlo

    I was Slinging up the game into Canada from a relative in the States. And with the increased download speeds, the game was in crystal clear HD!

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    1. Reciprocal

      An encouraging approach, but you can count on the U.S. stations wanting a percentage of the fees charged to TV subscribers in Canada.

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  8. Reciprocal

    The current system is not reciprocal. The focus on protecting Canadian broadcasters is a little misguided.

    Right now, signals from Canadian stations are retransmitted back into the U.S. border markets, with U.S. network programming. This programming is not being substituted or blacked out on the U.S. side, even though the Canadian stations do not have the rights to it those markets outside of Canada. And the system is not falling apart.

    That is what we should do in Canada. If the CRTC authorizes US stations for inclusion on Canadian channel bundles, and the Canadian consumer elects to watch programming on that channel, so be it.

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  9. shawn colley

    Why not just allow canadian television station owners to affiliate with american networks, or allow american networks to operate here? i’ve always had the impression that CTV = ABC, Global = FOX, and so on… of course, bilateral treaties would need to be worked out, especially for licensing the network brands, but it could work, and could very well solve a great many problems. The canadian stations would not even have to be owned by american broadcasters like Hearst-Argyle Media or Fox Television Stations Group… they could still be owned by CTV and Shaw and Rogers…

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      Why not just allow canadian television station owners to affiliate with american networks, or allow american networks to operate here?

      The Broadcasting Act requires Canadian television stations to be owned by Canadians, so NBC or Fox can’t just come here and set one up. As for Canadian stations affiliating with one network exclusively, they wouldn’t want to. CTV gets its picks of the best shows from all four networks, so why would it stick to one?

      Even if this did happen, it wouldn’t change anything about Super Bowl ads. Many American advertisers have no interest in buying ads in Canada simply because they don’t operate here.

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  10. Robert

    Yes, a rooftop antenna is the best way to view original American content while at the same time eliminating those annoying monthly cable and satellite bills. According to tvfool.com ch 44 is a “Green Zone” channel for my location and I don’t pick it up. Their antenna (WFFF and WVNY) is right next to the one used by NBC and CBS. I get them just fine which means that ABC and FOX are using way too low power and that their signals are being directed away from my area. One thing people can do is to petition them to increase their power levels comparable to CBS and NBC

    Reply

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