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Canadian TV subscribers set to see American Super Bowl ads for first time

Canadians set to see high-priced U.S. Super Bowl ads

Many Canadians are wondering who will emerge victorious Sunday in Super Bowl LI. Not in the game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, but in the high-stakes battle between the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission and CTV.

By mandating that this year’s Fox Super Bowl feed not be substituted with a Canadian signal, the CRTC was hoping to score a touchdown with Canadian viewers who have been venting for years about being shut out of the showy, high-priced U.S. ads.

Canadian rights holder Bell Media, claiming it has been hit with a multimillion-dollar ad revenue loss, has thrown a flag in protest. There’s been legal challenges and political lobbying, with even the National Football League getting involved on both sides of the border.

If nothing changes by the time of the coin toss Sunday, Canadian viewers will finally get to see the American Super Bowl ads live on through their cable and satellite packages.

Fox Sports president and COO Eric Shanks had two words last month in Los Angeles when asked if his network has charged a premium for ads that might reach Canadian viewers this Sunday: “I wish.”

Not that Fox is suffering. The network is already reportedly getting upwards of US$5 million per 30-second commercial spot during the Super Bowl.

The decision to allow the Fox feed into Canada might have created a windfall for U.S. border stations had there not been so much last-minute uncertainty. Local stations are allotted 13 30-second spots during the game (another 50 or so national ads are sold by the Fox network). Canadian advertisers might have bought air time on Buffalo, Detroit and other border stations had it been clear the CRTC ruling would stand.

Whether viewers watch the Canadian or American feed, they will see at least one new innovation this year, called “Be the Player.”

“For the first time ever,” says Shanks, “we are going to be able to, inside the game, take fans inside the helmet of any player on the field and show their perspective in real-time of what’s happening on either side of the ball.”

One thing viewers will not see is the game being transmitted in 4K. Rogers Sportsnet produced and aired all Toronto Blue Jays home games in 4K last season and plans to stick with the new technology again this season. Sportsnet also produced 15 NHL games and 14 NBA games in 4K for the 2016/17 season.

“There’s so few (4K) capable homes,” says Shanks, “that doing what we do and doing it right for that small amount of audience today just isn’t an investment that probably makes sense.”

Fox does have one 8K camera and four 4K cameras out of a total of 100 cameras covering the game. Shanks notes there will be 24 cameras in the end-zone areas alone.

The U.S. network uses their 4K and 8K cameras, explains Shanks, mainly as “a production tool to be able to blow up and magnify a guy’s foot” so it still looks to be in high definition.

Kick off for Super Bowl LI is scheduled for approximately 6:30 p.m. ET/PT. The game will air in Canada on CTV, CTV Two, TSN and Fox.

Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press