Fox will pack MLB broadcasts with fake crowds

Sports fans the world over are anxious to get back to some semblance of normalcy but this season will be unlike any other. In addition to playing far fewer games than usual, teams – and broadcasters – will have to grapple with the reality of doing so in front of empty stands.
Major League Baseball on Wednesday is set to kick off a condensed version of its 2020 season following a four-month delay due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Other sports that have already come back haven’t struggled too much with the lack of a live audience. The Ultimate Fighting Championship has been regularly hosting events since early May. While the atmosphere is certainly different without a crowd, it’s not necessarily better or worse – just that, different.

With the crowd gone, for example, fighters can better hear commands from their coaches. Unexpectedly, they can also hear the commentary team and at times, have even replied to them mid-fight. Plus, without a crowd to drown out the noise, viewers get a better understanding of what it must be like to be in the cage as all of the strikes and the reactions from opponents are amplified.

Simply put, it hasn’t impacted my enjoyment of the sport one bit.

At least one baseball broadcaster isn’t so certain that MLB can stand on its own without a live crowd.

When Fox airs its slate of MLB games this Saturday, the stands won’t be “empty.” Instead, they’ll be populated with virtual fans created using advanced motion capture techniques. The broadcaster will have more than 500 looping actions at their disposal and will even be able to control excitement levels and how fans are dressed.

“We were dead set on trying to make the broadcast with no crowd feel as authentic and organic as possible,” said Fox Sports executive vice president Brad Zager.

If you’re shooting for an authentic and organic feel, why are you adding in virtual effects to simulate a crowd? Whatever happens, let it happen naturally. Fans are just excited that sports are back and don’t need fake crowds and artificial noise to enjoy it.