February 7, 2017 / 2:28 PM / 2 years ago

Bell Media says Super Bowl ratings drop, cites ruling on commercials

New England Patriots' James White scores a touchdown during overtime to win Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian broadcaster of Sunday’s U.S. National Football League’s Super Bowl game said its ratings fell 39 percent from last year after a broadcast regulator ruled it could no longer substitute its commercials into U.S. feeds available in the country.

Bell Media, part of BCE Inc, said the game attracted an average audience of 4.47 million viewers across three of its main channels, compared with 7.32 million last year, when the game was only shown on its CTV channel.

The loss of viewership likely occurred as Canadians tuned in to the Fox Television feed instead, with its U.S. commercials that many consider funnier and more sophisticated.

Fox does not sell advertising in Canada, so its viewership is not measured by Numeris, the main broadcast measurement company in Canada. Fox Sports did not immediately respond to a query about its Canadian audience.

“It’s the outcome we predicted despite our efforts to mitigate the audience loss,” Bell media spokesman Scott Henderson said in a statement. “The CRTC’s decision is clearly having a direct and negative impact on Canadian viewers, advertisers, and the broader broadcasting and creative community.”

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) singled out the Super Bowl in a January 2015 ruling that stopped Bell from inserting domestic ads into the U.S. feed, a practice known as simultaneous substitution.

Bell said it is halfway through a binding contract in which it pays tens of millions of dollars for Super Bowl rights, fees it is less able to recoup with the lost advertising revenue due to the decision.

BCE and the NFL have appealed in federal court to overturn the ruling.

Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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