Joe Buck Says Fox May Add Crowd Noise And Virtual Fans To Empty Stadium Broadcasts

As sports leagues around the country begin putting plans in place for a potential return to play, the various broadcast partners must begin preparing for a very new reality when it comes to what games will look like. The expectation is that most leagues will be operating without fans in the stands for the foreseeable future, as Adam Silver has reportedly told players its possible they won’t be able to play in front of crowds until a COVID-19 vaccine is available — meaning fanless games could stretch well into 2021.

The trick for those broadcasting is how to create a more regular gameday atmosphere when there is not the buzz in the stadium or arena that typically exists. We’ve already seen in UFC’s return how eerily quiet things can be without fans in the building, although the flipside is the opportunity to hear more of what is said in the Octagon by the fighters. That will be the same challenge facing those that show the major team sports as well, and Fox’s Joe Buck offered some insight into what his network will be doing on a recent appearance on Sirius XM’s Andy Cohen Live (via Newsweek).

“It’s pretty much a done deal [using fake crowd noise],” Buck said. “I think whoever is going to be at that control is going to 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.”

Not only will they be working on how to pump in crowd noise — which some leagues will be doing in stadiums anyways to help make things feel a bit more normal for players — Fox is apparently working on how to digitally add fans to the stands for when they cut to wide shots.

“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’ll be empty,” he explained.

Buck would go on to elaborate on Twitter on Thursday that he wasn’t saying the virtual fans was a done deal, but that it was being looked into, as were a number of opportunities for the broadcasts.

It’ll be very interesting to see how the various networks handle their broadcasts, from who gets the most creative in making arenas and stadiums look “normal” in terms of fans in attendance to who finds ways to take advantage of the unique opportunity to put more of the on-field/court chatter from the players into the telecast. Whatever the case, while there will surely be a learning curve that can only take place in real time, fans will be tuning in no matter how ambitious the plans once live sports are back in our lives.