Seeing Canadian Commercials on American channels

Super Bowl Ads

You said you want to see Super Bowl ads live. We heard you. Learn more at Seeing Canadian Commercials during the Super Bowl.

As you flip through TV channels, you may notice that you seem to see Canadian ads on American channels. This is the result of simultaneous substitution.

Simultaneous substitution

Simultaneous substitution is when your cable or satellite dish company temporarily replaces the entire signal of one TV channel with another channel that's showing the same program at the same time. Usually, an American signal is replaced with a Canadian signal. Sometimes, a Canadian signal from outside your area is replaced with a local signal.

A program that originates in the US may be showing in both Canada and the US at the same time. The Canadian broadcaster airs Canadian ads but the program is the same. So when program substitution occurs, you see the signal, including the Canadian commercials, on an American channel.

Reasons for simultaneous substitution

There are a few reasons for allowing simultaneous substitution:

Simultaneous substitution and TV picture quality

Simultaneous substitution shouldn't affect the quality of your TV picture. This means even if the original signal is replaced with a local Canadian signal, the broadcasting quality should be the same or better.

If you encounter problems

Problems can occur, for example, when:

If you believe you have not received the appropriate level of service because of a simultaneous substitution error, you should file a complaint with us with the following information:

File a complaint

Addressing simultaneous substitution issues

During the Let's Talk TV conversation and for a number of years, Canadians have complained that simultaneous substitution mistakes cause them to miss certain parts of live events. For instance, it causes them to miss important plays during a football game or part of a presentation at an awards ceremony.

However, despite its irritations, simultaneous substitution is still necessary to provide over-the-air broadcasters with the financial support they need to continue offering high quality programming to Canadians.

To address this issue, the CRTC intends to introduce regulatory measures to deal with simultaneous substitution errors, to ensure it is done properly:

Examples of a substantial simultaneous substitution error include:

Simultaneous substitution is eliminated for Super Bowl.

Simultaneous Substitution Working Group

Following the Let's Talk TV proceeding, the CRTC required that representatives from various Canadian television stations and service providers and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre form a working group on simultaneous substitution. The mandate of this group is to examine measures to improve the performance of simultaneous substitution and to minimize errors and interruptions that occur and that are frustrating to viewers. The working group's first report (August 31, 2015) and second report (December 22, 2015) are now available.

Policies, Decisions and Orders

Simultaneous substitution errors (Broadcasting Information Bulletin CRTC 2015-329)

Regulatory measures to prevent substantial and avoidable simultaneous substitution errors (Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2015-25)

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