March 2, 2015 / 6:59 PM / 4 years ago

Canadian broadcaster fights ban on domestic ads during Super Bowl

Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; A member of the New England Patriots hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY

TORONTO (Reuters) - The exclusive Canadian broadcaster of the Super Bowl is fighting for the right to sell domestic advertising during the blockbuster U.S. football game after a television regulator blocked the practice last month.

BCE Inc’s Bell Media unit filed a motion to the Federal Court of Appeal on Monday seeking to overturn the ban by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) due to come into effect for the 2017 game.

It says the ban interferes with vested contractual rights, namely its agreement with the NFL that allows U.S. ads to be replaced with Canadian substitutes.

Canadian viewers have long complained that they cannot see the U.S. ads, which this year cost as much as $4.5 million for a 30-second spot.

In its decision, the CRTC cited the unique nature of the Super Bowl and the fact that the U.S. advertising is part of the spectacle as reasons for the ban.

Bell said the CRTC decision discriminates by singling out Super Bowl coverage while keeping intact a broader framework to support the domestic industry.

In its ruling, the CRTC estimated the practise of replacing ads, known as simultaneous substitution, is worth some C$250 million ($199 million) a year to Canadian broadcasters. However, it is not clear how much of that income comes from the Super Bowl, which attracted a record 9.2 million Canadian viewers this year.

BCE is also currently fighting another CRTC ruling that blocks the telecommunications and media company from sending its own content to its customers’ mobile devices for lower rates than other content.

Reporting by Alastair Sharp. Editing by Andre Grenon

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