Super Bowl fans celebrate. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Super Bowl viewership slumps on Canadian channels

TORONTO — Fewer football fans caught the Super Bowl on a Canadian channel this year as viewers again had the option to watch a U.S. feed featuring buzzy commercials.

Bell Media says it drew an average audience of 4.451 million viewers for the championship NFL game on its channels CTV, CTV Two and TSN2 on Sunday night.

That’s down slightly from last year, when an average audience of 4.488 million tuned in to catch the Canadian feed.

But it’s a substantial drop from two years ago, when Bell Media says 7.32 million tuned in to a simulcast feed that supplanted U.S. ads with Canadian ones on both Canadian and U.S. channels.

That was the first time in decades that Canadians could watch U.S. Super Bowl commercials as they aired on the U.S. network.

It was the result of a decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to force domestic cable and satellite providers to carry the entire U.S. feed after viewers complained about missing the headline-making ads.

Whether potential Canadian viewers opted for the U.S. feed or tuned out of this year’s game entirely is unclear.

The country’s ratings tracker Numeris says it did not measure how many Canadians watched the game on NBC, making it impossible to link the drop in Canadian ratings to the CRTC decision.

But it does track certain local NBC feeds and Bell Media pointed to numbers in Toronto and Montreal for clues as it continued to fight the CRTC decision.

Referring to data expressed as a percentage of the population of the market, the media giant says that in Toronto, CTV/CTV2/TSN2 delivered a 17.3 rating for those aged 25 to 54, while Buffalo, N.Y.’s NBC station scored a 7.8 rating — roughly 31 per cent of the audience.

In Montreal, CTV and TSN2 delivered a 17.8 rating, while NBC’s Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Burlington, Vt., stations drew a 11.7 rating — about 40 per cent of the audience.

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