How Canadians can watch Super Bowl LIV with American ads (the 2020 guide)

Letter from CTV to TV providers, provided to me by a helpful source

The free ride is over. Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that the CRTC had overstepped its authority in the way it created an exception to simultaneous substitution rules, CTV will once again be taking over the U.S. feed for the Super Bowl on Sunday for Canadian cable and satellite TV subscribers.

And that means Canadians will be looking for loopholes to get around those rules. So here they are.

Get it over the air

The simplest way of getting a U.S. network signal on Super Bowl Sunday is to pick it up over the air with an antenna. The government can stop a lot of things at the border, but the electromagnetic spectrum isn’t one of them.

This year, the Super Bowl is being carried on Fox, which isn’t great because WFFF-TV in Burlington has a 47-kilowatt transmitter on top of Mount Mansfield. If you have a TV with a digital tuner and an antenna positioned well enough to capture a weakish signal from across the border, WFFF is on Channel 43 (it moves to Channel 16 later this year), or virtual channel 44.1.

Other Fox stations near Canadian borders include:

  • WVII Bangor, Maine (southern New Brunswick, possibly western Nova Scotia)
  • WAGM Presque Isle, Maine (northern New Brunswick)
  • WNYF Watertown, N.Y. (Kingston, Ont.) — also available in lower resolution but higher power on WWNY
  • WUHF Rochester, N.Y. (Belleville, Ont.)
  • WUTV Buffalo (Toronto/GTA)
  • WJBK Detroit (Southwestern Ontario)
  • WWUP Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.)
  • KVRR Fargo transmiter KNRR Pembina, N.D. (Winnipeg)
  • KFBB transmitter K51KO Joplin, Montana (Medicine Hat/Lethbridge, Alta.)
  • KCPQ Seattle (Vancouver/Victoria)

Move out of a substitution zone

Simultaneous substitution is only required in the local broadcast area of the Canadian station. So people in areas without a local CTV station might be able to get an unsubstituted U.S. signal.

For CFCF (CTV) in Montreal, that means these areas:

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

Quebecers outside of Montreal (as defined above) and the Gatineau region (which is part of the footprint of CJOH Ottawa) should not have their signals substituted.

Note that if you have satellite TV, your signal may be substituted regardless of where you are, or the American signal blacked out.

American satellite providers (DirecTV, Dish Network)

These are technically illegal in Canada, but many people have found ways to get service north of the border, either by pirating them or using fake U.S. addresses. Since these are American providers, the CRTC doesn’t control them.

YouTube

The only legal way to get the Super Bowl itself online is through CTV, TSN or RDS. You need to be a subscriber, either through your cable company or through TSN/RDS Direct, to get access to the feeds. And, of course, you’ll get the Canadian ads.

But while streaming the game online is hard, watching the ads isn’t. YouTube has a special site devoted to Super Bowl ads that you can watch whenever you want, in high definition. They have promised to make the ads available as soon as they air on TV, and some are already there. You can pair watching the Super Bowl on TV with watching the ads on YouTube, though that can be logistically annoying if you’re hosting a party.

Somewhere else

In the past, some bars have either taken advantage of loopholes or set up antennas to get the game with U.S. ads. If you see one that’s promising that, feel free to share it below.

Unreliable loopholes

There are methods that have no guarantee of success. You could try watching west-coast feeds. Some cable companies offer Seattle stations as a way to time-shift, and then forget to do substitution for live events like this. But broadcasters have become wise to people using this loophole. Videotron is certainly aware of it and will be substituting this channel.

Bootlegged feeds

I’ve seen no shortage of people bragging that they have a $5 subscription to SportzFeedz.whatever that lets them stream whatever they want. Understand that these are pirated feeds of U.S. stations, and though you might not get prosecuted for watching them, they’re still illegal and could shut down at any time when copyright holders manage to catch them.

Move to the U.S.

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

Or just watch the Canadian ads

They’re not all awful.

6 thoughts on “How Canadians can watch Super Bowl LIV with American ads (the 2020 guide)

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Yes. Generally speaking, if you’re in a suburb of a city with a CTV station, you’ll face substitution. If you want to check, just tune into an American channel during primetime carrying the same show as CTV and see if you see the CTV logo or CTV commercials.

      Reply
  1. Anonymous

    If you want to watch any of those Super Bowl ads, check out TVGuide.com. They had about a dozen of them this Sunday morning.

    As for WFFF-TV 44.1 (RF43), you are correct, their puny 47kw power output from Mount Mansfield in Vermont can be a hit and miss in the Montreal area. I certainly don’t get a strong enough signal to get a picture lock. They would need to almost double that power output to the levels of WETK 33.1 (RF32) in order to get a solid signal into most of Montreal. I doubt very much this will be accomplished even when they move to RF16 this year.

    Let’s face it. The real problem with CTV’s Super Bowl coverage is the missing US Super Bowl ads. They are as much a part of the game as the actual game. Football fans watch the game. Non football fans enjoy the ads. End result, approx 100 million US viewers glued to FOX for almost 5 hours straight. The US networks, and the ad companies know this. Unfortunately this is not understood this side of the border. The whole thing is an event, and should be presented that way. If CTV had any brains, they would arrange to be a US network affiliate for the day, carry all the US ads, and then us the local affiliate time for ads to run Canadian ads, and super charge that rate to make a profit. US network affiliates certainly use their local ad time to add revenue to their bottom line. Hell with a plan like that, they might even be lucky enough to get SimSub all over Canada, because they would act as the US Networks Canadian affiliate for the day.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      If CTV had any brains, they would arrange to be a US network affiliate for the day, carry all the US ads, and then us the local affiliate time for ads to run Canadian ads, and super charge that rate to make a profit.

      Why would CTV voluntarily give up control of its advertising during one of the biggest events of the year? U.S. advertisers without business in Canada aren’t going to pay CTV, so why would CTV air their ads?

      Reply
  2. BMSM

    No CTV simsub on Cogeco here in the Ottawa Valley tonight… the FOX HD feed is in the clear, complete with American ads. Watching the game tonight via WJBK Detroit.

    Reply

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