CRTC says Canadians will get to watch U.S. Super Bowl ads as of 2017

It’s a decision that surprises me somewhat, though it’s consistent with the more populist pro-consumer approach taken by chairman Jean-Pierre Blais: simultaneous substitution, the rule that allows Canadian TV stations to force cable companies to replace U.S. network feeds with their own when they air the same program simultaneously, will be eliminated — only for the Super Bowl, and only as of 2017.

It’s weird to make an exception for a specific event, but the Super Bowl really is an exception. It’s the only time during the year when people actually want to watch the U.S. ads, and every year it’s the most common complaint the commission gets from consumers.

But this decision comes at a cost. Bell Media pays big money for NFL rights. We don’t know how much, or how long those rights are for (it was a “multi-year” deal signed in 2013), but we do know that the Super Bowl had 7.3 million viewers on CTV last year, and the Globe and Mail says the network can charge up to $200,000 for a 30-second spot during the game. With about 50 minutes of commercial time available, that’s several million dollars in revenue at stake. (UPDATE: Bell puts it at about $20 million for each year until its contract runs out in 2019.)

It’s hard to say what the fallout of this will be. Bell Media buys NFL rights as a package, so it’s not as simple as saying they’ll just give up rights to the Super Bowl. And the rest of the season, including the January playoffs, are still subject to substitution, and that still means a lot of money for the network.

Some people have suggested that CTV could get creative as a way of keeping viewers. Offering value-added content, or getting Canadian advertisers to improve their ads. The network has certainly tried the latter, but the economics just don’t work in its favour. A national Super Bowl ad in the U.S. costs 20 times as much as it does in Canada, which means advertisers’ budgets are 20 times higher. And as for value-added content, CTV can’t compete with the big U.S. networks. Plus, this whole exemption is so that we can watch the U.S. ads. How does CTV show the game and the U.S. ads and find space for its own advertising without cutting anything off?

Medium-term, it will be interesting to see how this changes the economics of NFL rights. Will Bell get a discount on its next deal (or does it have a clause that gives it a discount on this deal if it extends beyond 2016)? Will the U.S. network broadcasting future Super Bowls have to pay more to the NFL because their ads make it into Canada now? And will that result in higher rates on the U.S. broadcast?

Or will any of this even matter in a few years when we stop watching linear TV the way we used to?

Quality control — and red tape

For the rest of the year, the CRTC decided it would put in place measures to punish broadcasters and providers who screw up substitution, resulting in Canadians missing programming. We don’t care about the U.S. ads during these times, but we do care if Saturday Night Live comes back late or the Oscars cut out early.

Blais said the commission would adopt “a zero-tolerance approach to substantial mistakes” which sounds like an oxymoron. Broadcasters who make mistakes could lose the rights to substitute programs in the future. Distributors who make mistakes would be forced to provide rebates to customers.

Those both sound great, but how do you manage such a system? The CRTC suggests it would be done through its usual complaint resolution process:

To ensure procedural fairness to all broadcasters and BDUs, the Commission’s findings on such matters will be determined on a case-by-case basis and in the context of a process during which parties will have an opportunity to present any explanation for the errors, including whether the errors occurred despite the exercising of due diligence by a broadcasting undertaking.

In other words, if you lose 30 seconds of a Saturday Night Live sketch, you’ll have to complain to the CRTC, who will then launch a proceeding asking the two sides for comment. The broadcaster and the distributor will proceed to blame each other, and a few months later issue a decision that might result in three cents getting deducted from your next cable bill.

This sounds like an awful lot of red tape and extra work for everyone involved.

OTA stays

In its other decision on local television today, the CRTC said it would not allow local TV stations to shut down their over-the-air transmitters while retaining all the privileges of local stations, such as simultaneous substitution and local advertising. To emphasize the point, Blais gave his speech in front of large TV receiving antennas that consumers can use (but most are unaware of) to get local stations for free.

Beyond a takedown of arguments by Bell and the CBC, there isn’t much to this decision. It essentially keeps the status quo intact. But the CRTC says it will look more closely at the issue of local programming when it reviews its community television policy in the 2015-16 year. The scope of this review will be expanded to look at local TV in general, and the implication is that the commission may get more serious about forcing local TV stations to be more local.

More coverage of today’s decisions from the Globe and Mail and Cartt.ca. You can also watch the livestream of Blais’s speech here.

Reaction

Kevin O’Leary says this decision is “completely insane”, for what it’s worth, saying the CRTC is working against Canadians and Canada is like North Korea or Cuba. You know, his usual understated style.

Michael Hennessy of the Canadian Media Production Association looks at the downside of this decision for the industry, both directly and indirectly.

Diane Wild of TV Eh? says the CRTC should eliminate simsub entirely so Canadian broadcasters are encouraged to create their own content.

Michael Geist defends the decision, pointing out that simultaneous substitution is on the out anyway and the Canadian television industry is already too reliant on the government.

Meanwhile, Bell apparently sought a private meeting with the commissionners to get them to reverse their decision, a request the CRTC turned down.

And at Cartt.ca, suggestions that this could be the beginning of the end of vertical integration in Canada.

53 thoughts on “CRTC says Canadians will get to watch U.S. Super Bowl ads as of 2017

  1. Bill

    On Superbowl Sundays, already switch to my OTA connection and get the ads.

    But aren’t the ads all released online ahead of time anyhow these days?

    This sounds like one of those fixes that didn’t realize technology was already ahead of it.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      But aren’t the ads all released online ahead of time anyhow these days?

      In some cases the ads are held until they actually air, but even then they’re online almost immediately. YouTube has a special channel devoted to it.

      This sounds like one of those fixes that didn’t realize technology was already ahead of it.

      The CRTC is well aware that the ads are posted online, and even mentions that in communications with consumers. But even after years of this, Super Bowl commercials are the top complaint it receives every year. People organizing Super Bowl parties don’t want to have to move everyone in front of a laptop and click on a bunch of YouTube videos at every commercial break.

      Reply
  2. Michael Black

    I’ve seen this story twice elsewhere, and in both cases it was badly portrayed.

    They acted like sim-sub is some odd behaviour that now will be “banned”, rather than something allowed and wanted by the Canadian networks.

    The wording was also as if there’d be no more sim-sub, rather than something that could be dropped.

    And yes, while the Superbowl is mentioned, it wasn’t clear if it was about the Superbowl, or in general.

    In both cases, it looked like someone wrote it who hadn’t paid attention, and who was writing from the viewpoint of wanting to see the US ads. They only care about the Superbowl ads, think they should be allowed to see them, so they write that way.

    Wait, it may have been a wire-service story I saw first, and the CJAD just repeated it, rather than two stories.

    Michael

    Reply
  3. Dilbert

    For me, this is an example of the CRTC being very much less than willing to truly rock the boat. At best, this is a gentle wiggling of the boat perhaps to remind the captain who is nominally in charge.

    The effects, however, could be very interesting.

    The Superbowl is an exceptional event in that the advertising and the “non-game content” are significant and storied. Canadians have long since realized that they are getting the shaft on this one, missing out on a whole bunch of what makes the Superbowl so, well, super to watch. It’s perhaps a good place to start change – albeit a very slow change.

    My feeling here is that Bell will almost certainly have to renegotiate their NFL contract down, and it may in fact be impossible for them to justify the rates they pay for it now without the Superbowl ad income. Potentially, they could come to a new deal that makes more sense, and at the same time give the CRTC the type of real world example to show why simsub can be eliminated completely.

    ” Will the U.S. network broadcasting future Super Bowls have to pay more to the NFL because their ads make it into Canada now? And will that result in higher rates on the U.S. broadcast?”

    I don’t think so. The overspill is just that, overspill. The NFL is sort of double dipping on this one, collecting an amount from the US networks already, and then selling those rights again in Canada even though the US channels are legally distributed in Canada. The NFL / network contract is such a big number that the Bell money isn’t really the big end of the stick for them.

    Take away simsub money, and the only deal TSN/ CTV / Bell would want to do would be for games that would not otherwise be available to Canadians, such as the Sunday Night game which is on ESPN.

    “Or will any of this even matter in a few years when we stop watching linear TV the way we used to?”

    Contrary to what many say, “linear TV” isn’t going away any time soon. Entertainment delivered in a linear fashion creates both control and “circumstance”, boosting the value of the content. There is a huge difference beween “new episode of this hit show at 8PM,, don’t miss it” and “new month of programming uploaded, download at your leisure”. Value is created by both product and time, no different from a movie premiere but on a different scale. We don’t generally stand around the water cooler talking about the two week old episode of something we downloaded and watched with breakfast. The time value is important. Also, TV channels have a certain curator role to play in our lives, acting in a sense as a filter and bringing a certain amount of social commonality to our programming. We often talk about what we watched on network TV the night before, we rarely talk about what we watched on PPV or video on demand. Common experience (the time factor) is a key part of the entertainment experience.

    I could go on. Overall, the CRTC’s decision is basically “punt forward a couple of years, then we will have another look”. Reeks of regulatory capture!

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      For me, this is an example of the CRTC being very much less than willing to truly rock the boat

      Considering the entire Canadian television industry is riding on that boat, that’s understandable.

      the Sunday Night game which is on ESPN.

      Actually the Sunday night game is on NBC. ESPN carries Monday Night Football. There’s also the online streaming rights, which Bell would still have exclusively.

      Reeks of regulatory capture!

      Yes. This decision cost Bell millions of dollars a year, which is proof that Bell controls the CRTC.

      Reply
      1. Dilbert

        “Considering the entire Canadian television industry is riding on that boat, that’s understandable.”

        The Canadian television industry by all rights should be fairly small, with strong local players catering to their markets. Instead, we have an artificially large appearing system, with starving local stations who are not at all involved in their local markets. The artificial idea is collecting inflated ad revenues (via simsub rules) and the turning around and paying off the same American networks and producers for content, leaving them with little in the way of profits.

        “This decision cost Bell millions of dollars a year, which is proof that Bell controls the CRTC.”

        the CRTC could have set a reasonable date to abolish simsub entirely. They did not. For the moment, Bell (and others) are assured a “steady as she goes” at least until 2018 and more likely 2020. Regulatory capture is sometimes satisfied by giving in one something, and giving Canadian’s back the super bowl ads is a good one. From a PR stand point, it’s a huge give back, but from a financial standpoint it’s a rounding error on Bell’s balance sheet. Considering the Superbowl has been a flash point for years, it’s clearly a good way to extinguish the biggest flames in the fire, hoping nobody else complains about all the other hot spots.

        It’s cute watching you trying to justify all this :)

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          The Canadian television industry by all rights should be fairly small, with strong local players catering to their markets.

          And the Canadian television production sector is … nonexistent? Or do you believe every city in Canada should be producing its own local dramas?

          from a financial standpoint it’s a rounding error on Bell’s balance sheet

          You’re joking, right? It’s the Super Bowl. It’s millions of dollars a year.

          It’s cute watching you trying to justify all this

          And it’s cute watching you explain how a decision you were sure wouldn’t happen is in fact proof that you were right all along.

          Reply
          1. Dilbert

            “And it’s cute watching you explain how a decision you were sure wouldn’t happen is in fact proof that you were right all along.”

            What? That the CRTC didn’t move on the majority of issues and made only a token move to swat at the Simsub pinata? I have posted here repeatedly that they don’t have the balls to do anything and after all those big meetings with big ideas, this is what you get. 3 hours a year where the simsub rules don’t apply, and perhaps a method by which many months after a problem end users might get a minor amount of compensation for simsub errors.

            Big deal. The CRTC did nothing, and didn’t address the bigger issues of local TV not being local. The only thing that really makes Bell hot under the collar is that they won’t let them turn off local OTA stations (for now) and still keep their blessed simsub.

            “And the Canadian television production sector is … nonexistent? Or do you believe every city in Canada should be producing its own local dramas?”

            False dichotomy. That isn’t the choices on the table, is it?

            The Canadian production companies mostly exist to provide the “cancon” mandated by the rules, and not much more. They soak up the monies mandated by the CRTC, the soak up tax credits, and they produce mostly mundane TV that gets only passable ratings. Most of them do better selling overseas, where many cartoons and shows like “How It’s Made” are the cheap fodder for their programming gaps.

            Local stations should be able to produce their own content. They should be able to run their own stations, and make their own programming choices based on what the local market desires. They shouldn’t be 22 hour a day rebroadcasters of a network signal and 2 hours of (repeating) news.

            With news departments, cameras, and all that staff, it shouldn’t be too hard to at least come up with a 30 minute “top stories of the week” or to have an interview show with local news makers or whatnot. CJAD puts 12 plus hours a day of live talk on the air every day, shouldn’t a local TV station be able to produce at least 1 hour outside of the news? Where are the travel shows, the interview shows, heck the “McGinty Live” style shows?

            Montreal doesn’t have any Jack Currans or Don Mcgowens on the air anymore. We don’t have local production anymore, we don’t have local content. Just an antenna and a news room.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Local stations should be able to produce their own content. They should be able to run their own stations, and make their own programming choices based on what the local market desires.

              What makes you think that programming produced on even smaller scales and budgets will be less mundane than that produced by giants like Bell Media and Shaw?

              it shouldn’t be too hard to at least come up with a 30 minute “top stories of the week” or to have an interview show with local news makers or whatnot.

              You’re describing CBC’s Our Montreal and Global’s Focus Montreal, respectively. That’s what you want to see more of instead of series like The Amazing Race Canada, Orphan Black, Bomb Girls and 19-2?

              Reply
              1. Dilbert

                “You’re describing CBC’s Our Montreal and Global’s Focus Montreal, respectively. That’s what you want to see more of instead of series like The Amazing Race Canada, Orphan Black, Bomb Girls and 19-2?”

                Again, you are creating a false choice here. If the Canadian networks are not buying US programming as much (because they aren’t able to simsub it anymore) they will be forced to look at increasing production AT ALL LEVELS. That means you don’t have to stop producing nation wide network programming. It’s not an either or, and that is not at all what I suggested.

                I give up. White flag. Nothing I could say would even remotely change you mind on this. Enjoy suckling to corporate teat.

              2. Fagstein Post author

                If the Canadian networks are not buying US programming as much (because they aren’t able to simsub it anymore) they will be forced to look at increasing production AT ALL LEVELS.

                Except by “increasing” it’ll be “decreasing” because they’ll have hundreds of millions of dollars less of money to do it with. Canadians aren’t going to stop watching U.S. network shows, and it’s a pipe dream to think that the Canadian conventional TV industry can be saved if the Canadian networks just produce all their programming from scratch while still competing with ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.

            2. Dilbert

              “Except by “increasing” it’ll be “decreasing” because they’ll have hundreds of millions of dollars less of money to do it with. ”

              Go re-read their budgets and learn Steve. Most of the income goes to the US producers, it doesn’t stay in Canada. Simsub is mostly just a way to aggregate money to pay American producers. Nothing more and nothing less. That wasn’t the intention, but that is what it has become.

              You keep reminding us that OTA tv and the networks aren’t very profitable. Maybe it’s the high costs of imported programming that are doing them in.

              Think man. I know you can do it, I have seen you do it before.

              Reply
              1. Fagstein Post author

                Go re-read their budgets and learn Steve. Most of the income goes to the US producers, it doesn’t stay in Canada.

                Bell Media’s conventional television networks (CTV and CTV Two combined) spent $315 million on non-Canadian programming in the broadcast year ending Aug. 31, 2013, out of total revenue of $776 million. That works out to 40%, which is a bit below my threshold for “most”.

                But what’s important is this: Canadian programming expenditure quotas are based on total revenue, which means if revenue goes down, so do those spending requirements. Does anyone seriously believe ad revenue will go *up* without simultaneous substitution or if CTV stops airing hit U.S. programming?

                You keep reminding us that OTA tv and the networks aren’t very profitable. Maybe it’s the high costs of imported programming that are doing them in.

                A simple look at the finances would show that’s not the case. It’s the American shows that subsidize the Canadian programming. If Bell lost money on importing U.S. shows, it would stop doing it in a heartbeat.

              2. Dilbert

                Steve, it’s too easy to prove you wrong:

                http://giganomicsconsulting.squarespace.com/observations-old/2009/12/9/canadian-broadcasters-increase-foreign-programming.html

                Even in 2009, CTV’s expenditures for US programming was TWICE what it was for Canadian programming. That means that the majority of their programming costs are… paying Americans for content.

                What does that mean in real terms? You can go back and consult your same document to see how much they spend on Canadian (non-news) programming. Hint: Small number. Since they are claiming very low profits (generally single digit range) the gap between those two are their actual operating costs of the network.

              3. Fagstein Post author

                That means that the majority of their programming costs are… paying Americans for content.

                That’s still true, though it’s not a 2:1 ratio anymore, more like 3:2.

                You can go back and consult your same document to see how much they spend on Canadian (non-news) programming.

                About $57 million a year, of which about $24 million is scripted dramas and comedies.

                Since they are claiming very low profits (generally single digit range) the gap between those two are their actual operating costs of the network.

                I don’t follow this logic. Obviously programming is the most expensive part of running a network (about 2/3). And obviously without U.S. programming those costs would go down significantly. But my point is that CTV makes a profit off U.S. programming, despite their high costs. So without it, their revenues would go down more than their expenses. Less money would be spent on Canadian programming, because that budget is based on total revenues.

              4. Dilbert

                Let’s combine three statements here, and then you can (and you will) try to correct me:

                “Bell Media’s conventional television networks (CTV and CTV Two combined) spent $315 million on non-Canadian programming in the broadcast year ending Aug. 31, 2013

                About $57 million a year, of which about $24 million is scripted dramas and comedies.

                That’s still true, though it’s not a 2:1 ratio anymore, more like 3:2.”

                $315 on US programming, 57 million on Canadian programming. I don’t see a 3:2 ratio… I see nearly a 6 to 1 ratio in favor of paying for US programming.

                ” But my point is that CTV makes a profit off U.S. programming, despite their high costs. So without it, their revenues would go down more than their expenses. Less money would be spent on Canadian programming, because that budget is based on total revenues.”

                Not proven at all. Canadian programming COULD be profitable. Programming from other sources could be profitable. Running US programming purchased at a lower cost (without simsub rights) could be profitable.

                There isn’t ONE profitable business format in Canadian media. We know that Bell (and almost every other company in Canada) are using the same basic method to eke out profits, which is to purchase as many properties as possible, let go as much of the staff and assets as possible, and basically run them as bare bones operations.

                Is this really the best use of the public airwaves? Are you sure?

              5. Fagstein Post author

                $315 on US programming, 57 million on Canadian programming.

                It’s $500 million on U.S. programming, and $315 on Canadian programming.

                Canadian programming COULD be profitable.

                Sure, though just about everything we’ve seen suggests that hasn’t been the experience. But do you seriously think CTV’s ad revenue would be as high if it didn’t have hit U.S. series?

                Is this really the best use of the public airwaves?

                It’s not the worst. I’m all for pushing for more local programming, and for more companies to take the kinds of risks like we’ve seen at CHCH in Hamilton. But between having CTV broadcasting its mix of Canadian and U.S. programming and having nothing on the air at all, I’ll take CTV.

              6. Dilbert

                “It’s $500 million on U.S. programming, and $315 on Canadian programming.”

                Where do you get these numbers from? Quick math says you have a problem here… that’s 815 million of programming costs, and 776 million of total revenue – saying they pretty much lost their asses.

                Can you please link to one set of numbers so that we can talk on a level playing field? Every one of your posts seems to have contradictory numbers in it.

              7. Fagstein Post author

                Where do you get these numbers from?

                Here.

                I got the numbers wrong in my previous comment. It’s $315 million on non-Canadian programming and $505 million on total programming, so $190 million no Canadian programming. The 3:2 ratio still holds.

              8. Dilbert

                Looking at that spreadsheet, it’s not hard to see the problem here:

                Out of 190 million assigned to “Canadian” programming, $133 million is “news”. So deduct news production (as it’s generally non-prime time shows) and you are left with… not much. $28 million or outside programming, and 27 million of internal programming (much of which was “human interest” stuff).

                So Canadian programming (outside of news) is generously calculated at 55 million. Non-Canadian programming, 315 million. 6 to 1 ratio.

                News is the only thing that Bell actually produces in any great amount. Their own “in house” programming 28 million or so is less than 10% of what they pay for US programming.

                There is a clear lack of detail on this report of course, how much of it is “local news” costs versus national news, how much of the costs are related to operating the CTV News channel, and so on.

              9. Fagstein Post author

                There is a clear lack of detail on this report of course, how much of it is “local news” costs versus national news, how much of the costs are related to operating the CTV News channel, and so on.

                Costs related to CTV News Channel are reported with the financial returns of CTV News Channel. They’re not included here because this report is for conventional TV.

              10. Dilbert

                I will add this: Because of the grey boxes on this “public” report, it’s hard to tell what the numbers really are. As an example, we don’t get to see how much “contra” income they are claiming. There is the potential here for plenty of money being sort of not entirely real, advertisements “bought” by other Bell properties, and so on. So the real income numbers (without non-cash income) is likely lower, further raising the relative costs of US programming.

                Also, the report doesn’t break down the income by type, but does break down the costs. As an example, News is 133 million- but how much income is directly attributed to ad sales during the news? Is the news profitable overall, a loser, or what? Does the 315 million of US programming result in the majority of the profits, or is it more of a break even business to keep viewers watching profitable news, or the other way around?

                We don’t know. Nobody is telling, from what I can see.

              11. Fagstein Post author

                Does the 315 million of US programming result in the majority of the profits, or is it more of a break even business to keep viewers watching profitable news, or the other way around?

                Yes, though conventional television doesn’t make much profit overall. News can be profitable in places like Toronto and Montreal, depending on how you calculate revenues and expenses, but overall it’s an obligation more than a money-maker.

              12. Dilbert

                “Costs related to CTV News Channel are reported with the financial returns of CTV News Channel. They’re not included here because this report is for conventional TV.”

                Hence the problem. CTV News Channel is at least in part benfitting from the CTV network, affiliates, and the national news (or the other way around, depending on how you look at it). It’s hard to unroll the ball of wax that is Bell the ‘glom, because so many pieces depend on each other.

              13. Fagstein Post author

                It’s hard to unroll the ball of wax that is Bell the ‘glom, because so many pieces depend on each other.

                Indeed. Some of the numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt.

    2. mike007

      “Contrary to what many say, “linear TV” isn’t going away any time soon. ”

      I don’t know where are you living but younger generation is not watching Tv. After baby boomers are dead the sh… will hit the fan for all cable companies.

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        younger generation is not watching Tv

        Sure they are. They might not be watching as much TV, and they may be supplementing it with Netflix, YouTube and other sources of video, but surveys show they still watch plenty of TV.

        Reply
  4. Luke Elliot

    “Contrary to what many say, “linear TV” isn’t going away any time soon. Entertainment delivered in a linear fashion creates both control and “circumstance”, boosting the value of the content. There is a huge difference beween “new episode of this hit show at 8PM”…

    a lot of people subscribe to online IPTV services, which give you US networks in HD in real-time, without any simsubs.

    Reply
  5. Shawn Peterson

    This is a step in the right direction. But it’s not only about the ads – which are a bigger deal during the Super Bowl, but also about seeing the original telecast intact. CTV missed a key play in the NFC Championship game last season, while FOX did show it.

    Also, there’s other issues with simsubs, like poor audio / video quality, timing overruns and the BDU inserting an incorrect simsub overtop too early before another live sporting event has ended (like in the past several years Rogers’ has placed Global overtop of CBS or NBC early for PGA golf before the end of NCAA basketball or NHL hockey respectively, causing us to miss out on the ending of games), and there’s also missed promos / previews.

    I know this is just for the Super Bowl now, but hopefully it’s the start of the end for all simsubs. Simsubs were created in the first place so that Canadian networks could take that extra ad revenue and create more original Canadian content, instead, CTV, Global, and now CITY-TV have become even more lazy and air even more American content than ever before.

    The American networks put all the effort into producing the show / telecast… about 250 people work to put on a key NFL game… how many does CTV employ? 1 to ask for the simsub right, and fool many into thinking they had something to do with the production of the telecast, while in actuality they just sat in their Toronto office?

    We pay for American networks, and that’s what we should be able to see intact, all the time – this is not a communist country!

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Also, there’s other issues with simsubs, like poor audio / video quality, timing overruns and

      The quality control rules are meant to deal with that. I’m skeptical about how practical they are, but the idea is that the broadcasters and distributors will be have a financial incentive to develop ways to ensure errors like that don’t happen.

      Simsubs were created in the first place so that Canadian networks could take that extra ad revenue and create more original Canadian content

      Well it’s not really “extra” ad revenue. It’s just ad revenue. Simsub was created as a compromise so that Canadian cable companies could distribute U.S. stations even though neither the stations nor the cable company had the Canadian rights to those U.S. programs.

      CTV, Global, and now CITY-TV have become even more lazy and air even more American content than ever before.

      Is that true? CTV has added several Canadian shows to its daytime schedule (Marilyn Denis, The Social) and big-budget dramas to primetime. City cleared out Saturday and Sunday nights to add hockey. They certainly all still rely on simsub, but I don’t know if it’s more than it was, say, 10 years ago.

      The American networks put all the effort into producing the show / telecast… about 250 people work to put on a key NFL game… how many does CTV employ?

      About as many as the NBC affiliates that are also broadcasting the game. Nobody’s suggesting that CTV produces the Super Bowl, it’s obviously acquired programming.

      We pay for American networks

      Actually, you don’t. The American networks don’t see a cent of what you pay your cable company. They’re usually included free in the basic package for that reason.

      Reply
      1. Dilbert

        “The American networks don’t see a cent of what you pay your cable company. They’re usually included free in the basic package for that reason.”

        Nothing is “free” Steve, lets be honest. Part of the price paid for basic cable is to have access to the US channels. That they don’t happen to pay for them doesn’t make them free, it only means that they money paid stays with the cable distributor. Like it or not, if you pay $20 a month for 40 basic cable channels, you are paying 50 cents a channel. That they don’t pay a fee to carry them doesn’t magically make them free.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Part of the price paid for basic cable is to have access to the US channels.

          That’s the perception. But it’s no more true than paying for the oxygen inside a house you buy. This is part of why the discussion of pick and pay is so complicated: people want to think it’s like buying fruit, but it’s not.

          Reply
          1. Dilbert

            I cannot imagine that you cannot understand a simple concept: Access to the US channels is part of the basic tier, and that is what you pay for. It’s part of what originally sold cable TV, access to US channels and freedom from rabbit ears. Without the US channels, it likely would have been much harder for cable companies to sell themselves in the early days, as most people would just stick up and antenna and be done with it.

            Without the US channels, cable in Canada likely would never have taken off.

            Oh, sky is blue. Want to argue that point too?

            Reply
  6. Clear Channel

    The antenna on stage was the DB8e from Antennas Direct and was a surprise to me too. I have seen one or two of these antennas in the Montreal area last year. They are mainly UHF antennas and the VHF performance isn’t so great. They couldn’t use a yagi-type antenna like the Antennacraft HD1850 as that antenna is 180 inches long and is a full spectrum antenna. The DB8e is essentially two 4 Bay antennas that can be aimed in the same direction for more gain, or the two bays can be aimed in different directions to receive signals from transmitter towers in different directions. Toronto and Markham Ontario are fine examples where people there can receive Toronto and Buffalo in roughly the same direction and Rochester New York to the east. There are about 40 channels available free over-the-air.

    Solid Signal in the United States sells their Xtreme Signal HDB8X 8 Bay VHF/UHF HDTV Antenna which basically does the same thing at a lower cost. However, the high VHF performance (channels 7 to 13) generally lag behind the performance of the UHF band that these antennas are optimized for.

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  7. Clear Channel

    This latest ruling from the CRTC to keep OTA alive and well is some of the best news in years. I participated quite a bit in that “Let’s Talk TV” survey and it’s good to see that the CRTC actually took notice of what I and many others had to say. The multi-billion dollar monopolies have had things going their way long enough, it’s about time that the average citizen gets his/her say. Pay TV is all well and good for those that are younger and can afford it, but as people age their priorities change – healthcare for one. Medical expenses even those covered by employer’s insurance after retirement rarely exceed 80% and that’s about the same amount that the Quebec Government insures for. What is leftover after buying medications and supplies usually doesn’t leave much to be spent on Pay TV and that’s where broadcast television and TV antennas come in handy.

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  8. Clear Channel

    A lot of discussion seems to be focused on the Super Bowl ads and while that may please people watching via cable or satellite, the benefits of using an antenna is to receive information directly from those U.S. border stations all the time. That means all of the commercials and any information that may be useful in planning future shopping trips or vacations to Lake George or Lake Placid for example. We get American tourists here and no doubt some of them are watching our signals.

    The bigger issue for me is to implement regulations so that all residents of condos and apartments have access to OTA signals on an equal basis with either cable or satellite in order to allow real choice and to remove the “Pay TV Handcuffs”.

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  9. at/sc

    Just a small point about the simsub quality issue.

    I’ve noticed a few times when a US station and a local Canadian station are broadcasting the same program over the air, the Canadian stations audio, and video is not as sharp as the US stations. And the US stations are running sub-channels as well. The Canadian stations are not. Except for CKMI (15.1 – HD, 15.2 – SD duplicate of their 15.1)

    Not sure, but, what that says to me is that the Canadian stations (or Network) are probably compressing at the source when they get the US feed. Now when it goes through a BDU (cable, sat service), then another compression level occurs. This adds to the problem.

    Also there is some talk about the OTA signal not being compressed. Actually all signals are compressed. It just happens that the BDU’s are compressing even more on their services as opposed the OTA signal.
    The question really becomes, how much compression is acceptable. Do I want a DVD quality image (480p) being sold to me with a banner calling it HD (minimum 720p) through a BDU just because it’s 16:9.

    This over compression issue can also happen for OTA stations is they add too many sub-channels. Just compare the image quality of WETK 33.1 (1080i) with WCFE 57.1 (1080i). The reason for this is because WETK is sending two HD signals (33.1 & 33.2), and two SD signals (33.3 & 33.4). WCFE on the other hand has just one HD signal (57.1) and two SD signals (57.2 & 57.3).

    Currently the OTA system is using ATSC 1.0. The ATSC 2.0 is in the works that is suppose to add improvements, as is ATSC 3.0. From what I’ve read, ATSC 3.0 is probably going to be the real game changer.

    Here are a few articles that I’ve run across that might interest a few people…and will probably add some perspective about the FCC wanting to claw back some of the UHF band.

    Article on ATSC 2.0 – http://www.cepro.com/article/new_atsc_2_0_will_change_the_way_we_watch_tv/

    Article on ATSC 2.0 & 3.0 – http://www.current.org/2014/11/evolution-and-revolution-coming-as-atsc-readies-new-broadcast-standard/

    Article on ATSC 3.0 Field Test. This involved a station transmitting a 4k, 720p, and a 480p all at once.
    http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1324366

    Reply
    1. at/sc

      Now going back to the Super Bowl simsub, I would be worried about which way this may turn out.

      Pure speculation here…

      1 – Bell renegotiates the deal with the NFL. Asks for a lower price for the event by Bell. Viewers can watch the US or Canadian broadcast.

      2 – Bell strikes a deal with the US network to become effectively a US affiliate for that one event. Thus running the US networks ads, plus airing local Bell spots as part of the local affiliate air time that all US networks provide for their affiliates.

      3 – Bell renegotiates with the NFL, and requests for a Blackout of US stations for the Super Bowl going thru BDU’s in Canada. In a way, it’s another form of Simsub. You still will have to watch the Canadian station for the Super Bowl.

      If option #3 is taken, then we are right back to where we were, and OTA will be the only option to pick up US stations for the Super Bowl. My preference would be option #2. But, the audio & video quality will need to made as good as the US stations. As an example, just last night, I was watching SNL. I compared the OTA broadcast between WPTZ (5.1) and CKMI (15.1). The audio on CKMI was not sharp, and sounded muddy. Things like this need to be fixed up by the Canadian broadcasters.

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      1. Fagstein Post author

        1 – Bell renegotiates the deal with the NFL. Asks for a lower price for the event by Bell. Viewers can watch the US or Canadian broadcast.

        The contract might also already have a clause to cover situations like this. Or the contract might only be through next season, which means it’ll be a new deal anyway.

        2 – Bell strikes a deal with the US network to become effectively a US affiliate for that one event. Thus running the US networks ads, plus airing local Bell spots as part of the local affiliate air time that all US networks provide for their affiliates.

        Not sure how that will work as far as money is concerned. Plenty of companies with big Super Bowl ads have no use for Canada. Sprint and Verizon don’t operate here, for example. They aren’t going to pay extra to have their ads broadcast in Canada, which means NBC isn’t about to pay CTV extra to expand its network here.

        3 – Bell renegotiates with the NFL, and requests for a Blackout of US stations for the Super Bowl going thru BDU’s in Canada. In a way, it’s another form of Simsub. You still will have to watch the Canadian station for the Super Bowl.

        This won’t happen simply because there’s no one to actually do the blacking out. U.S. border stations don’t have any control over their distribution in Canada, so they can’t black out their signals without simply going off the air completely. Distributors have no interest in blacking them out during the Super Bowl or at any other time.

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        1. at/sc

          Concerning your response to point #2…I have question.
          The old US network model was that they paid affiliates to carry a network feed. I believe that model went away. I think that the networks now provide the affiliate with a few minutes per hour of network shows to run local ads. Thus make money that way. Can you confirm this?

          Also, the US networks have affiliates outside of the US. Not just US territories like Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa. It seems the local stations in Bermuda are affiliated wit the main US networks.

          CBS in Bermuda : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZBM-TV
          ABC in Bermuda : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZFB-TV
          NBC in Bermuda. But this affiliate has shutdown: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VSB-TV

          Reply
          1. Dilbert

            “The old US network model was that they paid affiliates to carry a network feed. I believe that model went away. I think that the networks now provide the affiliate with a few minutes per hour of network shows to run local ads. ”

            You are correct, that is the general concept now. Part of the overall negotiation with affiliates these days seems to be about how many minutes an hour they get, as well as what “optional” programming they will carry for a fee. While most affiliates carry most of the network stuff, certain programs (like late night programming, Sunday morning program, and even weekend morning kids programming) is option. Affiliates are often able to make better money by sourcing programming themselves (syndicated or locally produced) and selling ads that way.

            Many affiliate stations make their big money on local news. They spend a pile to do it, but in many places the local news runs from as early as 4PM and often has an extra segment AFTER the network news, running as late as 7:30pm.

            Most of the reasons you don’t see the US stations in Canada is regulatory – ownership, Canadian content, and advertising all go against just extending the model here. With few independent stations that could become affiliates (and essentially none in any major markets) it would be an uphill fight all the way – to gain access to a market smaller than California.

            Cancon rules would also make it very difficult, as a certain percentage of prime time programming would have to be Canadian. As they would not want to change their US schedule, clearly it’s not something that would work very easily.

            Reply
  10. Andy Reid

    Regarding the CRTC’s decision on the Super Bowl, I think it is wrong. It will really screw up CTV’s model. What the CRTC should have done, is allow CTV to show what it wants during the event, but also ask BDU’s not to block the American station [in this case, NBC].
    So viewers have a choice: watch the American station or the Canadian station. I am sure many do not care. This would also create competition in that Canadian spots would have to become more creative and less repetitive, thereby attracting more viewers away from the American station.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      What the CRTC should have done, is allow CTV to show what it wants during the event, but also ask BDU’s not to block the American station [in this case, NBC].

      This is exactly the effect of the decision.

      Reply
      1. Andy Reid

        That’s not what CFRA and Kevin O’Leary are saying. It sounds like CTV will not be allowed to cut into NBC’s [or who ever it is in 2017] broadcast of the Super Bowl.

        http://www.bnn.ca/Video/player.aspx?vid=542085

        It sounds to me like American commercials will be aired in Canada on CTV and NBC. So for BDU consumers, they will have no choice but to watch American commercials. I though, have an antenna.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          It sounds like CTV will not be allowed to cut into NBC’s [or who ever it is in 2017] broadcast of the Super Bowl.

          That is correct.

          It sounds to me like American commercials will be aired in Canada on CTV and NBC.

          CTV will continue to air its own commercials. But since CTV can no longer force cable companies to replace their NBC feeds with CTV, people who tune to NBC will watch NBC ads.

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        2. Dilbert

          “That’s not what CFRA and Kevin O’Leary are saying. It sounds like CTV will not be allowed to cut into NBC’s [or who ever it is in 2017] broadcast of the Super Bowl.”

          CTV will no longer be allowed to cut off NBC on cable and replace it with it’s own program. If you tune to NBC (or whoever has the super bowl that year) you will see THEIR broadcast.

          If CTV negotiates to carry the super bowl, they will be able to have their own ads on the CTV channels. If you tune to CTV, you will get Canadian ads.

          Welcome to the disinformation age. You might want to note that CFRA is owned by Bell. Seems like these guys are pushing a corporate line, what do you think?

          Reply
  11. Jayme

    My issue with both Ctv and City Tv is they depend to much on reruns take Ctv/Ctv 2 they have something like 25 hours of reruns a week.

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  12. Another Steve

    I live in Kingston, ON (moved from MTL a year ago), not certain why but there was no simulcasting for the Super Bowl. I watched the full American feed from our NBC affiliate out of Detroit (Cogeco – channel 714). Not sure Steve if you would happen to know what the CRTC law is behind this or if it’s just someone asleep at the switch. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen simulcasting of any programs in my short time here in Kingston

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    1. Another Steve

      I found the answer to my question… “Cable providers in areas with populations of less than 20,000 people or who are more than 100 kilometres away from any one local television provider (for example, CTV, Global or the CBC) are not legally required to have simultaneous substitution implemented”.

      Our CTV affiliate is out of Ottawa, and they’re of course over 100 KMs away.

      Reply
  13. Clear Channel

    There is the CTV station CJOH which is a re-broadcaster out of Desoronto Ontario on channel 6 that is 57.3 kilometers west of Kingston that can be picked up with an antenna. Interestingly, there is another CJOH re-broadcaster out of Lancaster Ontario on channel 8 that can be received here in Montreal which is still analog.

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  14. Richard Clifford

    And attention, Canada! It’s time to restart the low power translators and upgrade them to digital so people in the rural areas can watch their favorite shows again. It’s also time for CBC to stop airing commercials and start living its charter as Canada’s public broadcaster.

    Reply

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