NFL hands ball to Trump in Super Bowl ad spat
The brawl over the Canadian broadcast regulator’s new Super Bowl ad policy may get big league attention from the president of the United States himself.
With less than a week to go before the National Football League’s championship game, and after a week in which trade deals between Canada and its largest trading partner have been at the top of the agenda, the NFL says it informed President Donald Trump’s administration of its desire to get the new policy overturned before kick off.
“The president is aware. This is on his radar. We are hopeful this will be resolved prior to the Super Bowl,” said Jocelyn Moore, the NFL’s D.C.-based senior vice president of government affairs.
Attention from Trump could be a turning point in the battle over the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission decision, finalized in August, that lets Canadians watch big-budget U.S. ads during the Super Bowl instead of substituting local ads into the broadcast.
BCE Inc.’s Bell Media, the NFL, politicians on both sides of the border, actors and unions have all pressured the federal government to overrule the policy, which was introduced to appease viewers who complain they don’t get to see the American ads.
They argue the ability to sell ad space to local companies is critical for Bell to recoup costs of its multimillion dollar contract with the NFL for exclusive broadcast rights to the most-watched live television event in Canada, but Ottawa hasn’t budged. The Prime Minister’s Office and the Department of Canadian Heritage say they respect the broadcast regulator’s independence to create policy and that it is explicitly out of their control.
The NFL, which has lobbied the Prime Minister’s Office over the issue, reached out to Trump’s administration to convey its displeasure with the policy sometime after his inauguration. Moore would not reveal who was involved or what was said in the talks, but she emphasized the importance of the trade agenda and the ability for U.S. companies to know the rules of the road before doing business in Canada.
The political pressure comes after Bell and the NFL launched a court battle to overturn the decision. It remains to be seen whether playing the Trump card will result in a last-minute policy overhaul.