TORONTO (Reuters) - Millions of Canadian viewers of the U.S. Super Bowl football game will soon be able to enjoy all the high-priced advertising that is fed to their southern neighbors, the country's broadcast regulator said on Thursday.
For years, Canadian viewers have complained that the ads - which for this Sunday's game cost as much as $4.5 million for a 30-second spot - have been out of reach. Broadcasters in Canada replace them with less impressive domestic ads that are sometimes mistimed and result in viewers missing some of the on-field action.
A ban on simultaneous substitution, the process by which a Canadian broadcaster can insert domestic ads into programming, will come into force for Super Bowl broadcasts starting in 2017, the regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), has ruled.
But simsub, as the ad substitution process is known, will remain in place for all other broadcasts, the CRTC said. The regulator estimates the practise is worth some C$250 million ($198 million) a year to Canadian broadcasters, although it is not clear how much of that income comes from the Super Bowl, which 8 million Canadians watched last year.
The current Super Bowl TV rights holder for Canada, BCE Inc's Bell Media, can choose to waive its right to insert domestic ads in 2016, the CRTC said.
BCE said the CRTC move would reward U.S. corporations over home-grown companies and content creators. It said Canadian companies would "have a diminished opportunity to market their products to Canadians watching U.S. ads for products they probably can't buy".
BCE's current deal to broadcast the Super Bowl, the undisputed king of U.S. sporting events, extends beyond 2017.
Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Peter Galloway