WASHINGTON — National Football League officials think the Trump administration can help them win their legal case against Canada’s TV commission regarding Super Bowl advertisement rights, a top NFL lobbyist said Friday.
President Trump announced in April that he intended to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement after earlier saying the U.S. should withdraw from NAFTA. On the campaign trail, Trump called the 1994 trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere.”
Jocelyn Moore, senior vice president of public policy and government affairs for the NFL, said Trump and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are taking stronger steps to protect the NFL’s intellectual property rights in NAFTA than the previous administration.
“We feel like the president has outlined a very strong enforcement agenda,” Moore said. “We’ve had a number of conversations since the last administration and leading into this administration around this issue.”
The NFL has a contract with Bell Media to air the entire football season, including the Super Bowl, in Canada. Through a practice called simultaneous substitution, local advertisements are sold and shown in place of ones viewed in the U.S.
In 2015, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission decided to no longer use “sim sub” during the Super Bowl, wanting to give fans the authentic experience of seeing the event’s famous advertisements like U.S. viewers do. This action violates copyright protections under NAFTA, Moore said.
Lighthizer’s office held three days of hearings this week to solicit comments on what is needed in the trade deal to strengthen U.S. interests. Moore was among the officials from a wide array of industries and interests who spoke at the meeting.
“This is a question for us of uncertainty to feel like the Canadian government has stepped into the middle of a contract between two businesses,” said Moore. “And more importantly, they’ve singled out us. It applies to us and no other program or entity.”
During regular season games, broadcasters still use “sim sub” for local television ads.
Bell Media loses money by not being able to sell advertisements during the Super Bowl. Moore said the CRTC decision also caused a 40 percent drop in viewership.
The NFL, whose contract with Bell Media goes through 2018, says the CRTC decision diminishes the value of NFL broadcast contract negotiations.