An interest, either of civic/national pride, or of protecting smaller commercial interests, is usually involved. The practice has close similarities between Canada and the United States.
For example, Global airs several popular American series such as The Simpsons. With simultaneous substitution, Global can ensure that advertisements purchased on their network are seen by nearly all Canadians watching the show at that particular time, rather than losing advertising revenue because some viewers were seeing the FOX affiliate's commercials instead. This issue is at its most controversial during the Super Bowl, where the simsub rules usually block Canadian audiences from seeing the American commercials that they would see in the course of an American network broadcast during the Super Bowl.
Simsubs can only occur when a local and a non-local station are airing identical programming. Using the Simpsons example above, Global can only simsub a FOX affiliate airing the same episode of The Simpsons in the same time slot (hence "simultaneous"). The network cannot simsub if FOX is airing a different episode, and it cannot simsub a FOX affiliate airing the show at a different time. Therefore Canadian viewers should not lose any content from other, non-simsubbed programs; however, this is only true if the cable, satellite, or MDS distributor performs the substitution accurately. If they mistake the start or end time, or even channel, of a broadcast or if the time is unexpectedly changed (for example, due to a long-running sportscast before it), viewers may lose out.
Simultaneous substitutions are performed by the cable, satellite or MDS distributor, from a list submitted by the station in advance. Simultaneous substitution applies only to those methods of distribution. U.S. terrestrial signals available in Canadian border markets cannot be simsubbed. Also, simsubs can only be applied by cable companies in areas where the local station is available terrestrially.
Some American stations whose signals are distributed in major Canadian cities, especially stations in the Burlington, Vermont / Plattsburgh, New York television market, which depend on carriage in Montreal for their financial viability, and to a lesser extent stations in Buffalo, New York for Toronto, intentionally counterprogram against this rule, altering their schedules so that their programming is not simsubbed, sometimes causing the Canadian stations to alter their schedules in order to continue simsubbing, prompting the American stations to alter their schedules again, and so on, as famously demonstrated by a "duel" between Burlington/Plattsburgh's WFFF-TV and Montreal's CJNT-TV. Viewers of the affected shows can become annoyed and choose not to watch if this game of "back and forth" continues for too long.
Although the market share and revenue provided by simultaneous substitution is a boon to the Canadian commercial broadcast television industry, the extent to which their schedules depend on matching American scheduling creates the unintended, and sometimes controversial, consequence of making it difficult to find viable timeslots in which to develop audiences for Canadian series. To maximize advertising revenue, most Canadian television stations plan their schedules principally around creating as many simultaneous substitution opportunities as possible for the American programming that they purchase. Programming that cannot be simsubbed, including much Canadian content programming, is commonly scheduled as a secondary concern, to fill holes where a simsubbed American program cannot be placed. Some cultural critics, in fact, have alleged that the practice of simultaneous substitution consequently plays an inappropriately large role in determining how much Canadian content is even produced, let alone aired.
However, in the end, many of the above situations can be avoided by a subscription to a combo package carried by cable and satellite companies that allows the original American channels to be shown in Canada without simultaneous substitution. For example, many viewers in the Greater Toronto Area can pick up American channels from New York, Chicago or Seattle in their original format. Many viewers from Toronto watch these channels for events such as the Super Bowl where there are no Canadian commercial interruptions.
High-definition simsubbing is also starting to occur in Canada. Many providers are in the process of making the switch, decreasing the likelihood of non-simsubbed programming further. HD simsubbing shouldn't be carried out in most areas of the country, though, due to the lack of over the air HD transmitters in the majority of Canadian cities. Global and CTV, for instance, only has OTA HD transmitters in Toronto and Vancouver, and carries out simsubbing in those cities and in other certain cities, but not all. The rules are very inconsistent and might be confusing to the end-user.
Cable companies in the United States are required by the Federal Communications Commission to follow a similar policy of syndication exclusivity, or "syndex". Under syndex rules, a non-local channel carrying a program at the same time as a local one may be simultaneously substituted or even blacked out entirely for the duration of the program. US syndex rules also apply to stations outside the US, such as Canada and Mexico. For example, Time Warner Cable in Buffalo, New York, replaces the signals of American programming on Toronto's CTV O&O, CFTO-TV, with home shopping, during affected programming, especially those appearing on American networks.
Some systems have also employed special equipment, which automatically switches to the local channel if both signals are the same, then switches back to the out-of-town channel if the signals are different (such as during local commercial breaks and programming). This generally works only for network programming, as well as programming seen simultaneously on Canadian stations available on American systems.
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