In the weeks before the Super Bowl every year, Digital Home is deluged with readers asking whether they will be able to watch the big game with U.S. commercials.

Unfortunately, thanks to the CRTC mandated practice of signal substitution or sim-subbing, the vast majority of Canadian cable and satellite television subscribers will only see Canadian commercials.



The balance of this article highlights what Canadian Over-the-Air (OTA) viewers, standard and high definition cable customers, Bell TV customers, Shaw Direct customers can expect to see on Super Bowl Sunday.

We say “expect to see” because individual cable and satellite companies may not apply the signal substitution rules correctly. In the past, some cable operators simulcast the game when they should not have and some cable operators did not simulcast when they should have. Last year most cable and satellite operators applied the rules correctly after they were rebuked in December 2008 by the CRTC in Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2008-358.

Over-the-Air Television (OTA) Viewers

If you are one of the minority of Canadians who can receive and view the CBS analog or digital television signal over-the-air (OTA) then congratulations because you will be watching the game complete with American commercials.

Standard Definition Cable Customers

Generally speaking, if you are a standard definition (SD) cable television subscriber and your cable company is located within the Grade B contour of any CTV analog station in Canada then your Super Bowl broadcast will be simulcast.

Simply speaking the "Grade B contour" is the geographic area in which it is predicted that a consumer with an outdoor antenna would be able to receive a local stations analog broadcast. The size of the area depends on the station but for most cities, the contour map can extend out 75 to 100 kilometres from the transmitter and cover thousands of square kilometres.

Practically speaking, since most English speaking Canadians live within the Grade B contour of a CTV analog signal, it means that most Canadians watching standard definition television outside of Quebec will see the Super Bowl with Canadian commercials.

In Quebec, CTV has only one analog station in Montreal therefore SD cable subscribers outside the Montreal area should see the American version of the game.

High Definition Cable Customers

Because CTV has high definition (HD) OTA transmitters in Canada's major English language urban centres: Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver, it means that most HD cable customers will be watching a CTV simulcast of the big game.

HD cable subscribers outside of those cities respective grade B contours should be able to watch the CBS-HD version of the game complete with U.S. commercials.

Bell TV Customers

In "Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2008-358 - Regarding Simsub of Super Bowl" the CRTC mandated that Bell TV must simulcast the CTV simulcast version of the Super Bowl to all standard definition and high definition Bell TV customers regardless of where they live in the country.

Shaw Direct (Star Choice) Customers

Thanks to special technology implemented by Shaw Direct, the direct-to-home satellite television distributor has the ability to determine which customers should receive the simulcast or U.S. version of the game based on their postal code.

Shaw Direct  customers who will see US commercials include standard definition customers whose postal code is outside the Grade B contour of any CTV digital transmitter in Canada and high definition customers whose postal code is outside the Grade B contour of CTV's high definition transmitter in Toronto.

Discuss in Digital Home's Canadian Sports Progamming forum .

Updated: This article was updated to remove Ottawa from the list of cities with CTV digital stations. CTV HD in Ottawa is only available on cable and satellite and has not begun broadcasting OTA. Digital Home apologizes for the error.