Joe Buck, Jim Nantz, and Mike Breen joined Bryant Gumbel on a recent edition of HBO’s Real Sports to talk about the impact of COVID-19 on the sports — and sports broadcasting — world. Buck said that he thinks networks will have to put crowd noise into the broadcasts if there aren’t fans in attendance.
Well, Buck appeared on Andy Cohen Live! on Wednesday, and said that pumping crowd noise into Fox broadcasts “is pretty much a done deal.” Buck added, “In fact, I know they’ll do it.”
Buck also said that they’re looking at ways to put “virtual fans” in the stands for television broadcasts, “so when you see a wide shot, it looks like the stadium is jam-packed.”
Buck: There’s probably going to be a season in doing games with no fans, which will be difficult. I think Fox, and these networks, have to put crowd noise under us to make it as normal a viewing experience at home.
Cohen: Do you think they’ll do that?
Buck: I do. Yeah, I think they’ll do it. In fact, I know they’ll do it… It’s pretty much a done deal. I think whoever’s gonna be at that control is gonna have to be really good at their job and be realistic with how a crowd would react depending on what just happened on the field. So, it’s really important.
And then on top of that, they’re looking at ways to put virtual fans in the stands. So when you see a wide shot, it looks like the stadium is jam-packed, and in fact it will be empty.
Note that Buck specifically said, “Fox, and these networks,” so perhaps he’s been hearing about other TV networks that are also looking to do this.
It would seem likely that all of the networks showing NFL games — Fox, CBS, ESPN, NBC, and NFL Network — would choose to handle these empty-stadium broadcast issues similarly. Imagine watching the NFL RedZone, while Fox has crowd noise and virtual fans, and CBS doesn’t. That would make an already weird viewing experience even weirder.
It will also be interesting to see if the crowd noise and virtual fans are used for the other major sports leagues in empty stadiums, and those leagues could all begin or resume their seasons before the NFL does. And if so, we may be fairly used to this sports-viewing weirdness before the NFL season starts.