The Detroit Lions will be part of a broadcast experiment in Week One
The Detroit Lions will kick off their regular season this Sunday against a divisional rival, the Chicago Bears. The contest will be the Lions’ home opener at Ford Field. But it will also be the debut of an experiment by FOX, the network broadcasting the game.
Because of concerns surrounding COVID-19, the Lions will not have any fans in Ford Field for their matchup against the Bears on Sunday. But instead of broadcasting an empty stadium, FOX will attempt to insert virtual fans in the stands digitally. The game in Detroit is the only contest in the entire league where they will attempt to do this in Week One.
While many have wondered what playing an NFL game in an empty stadium would look like, the league has already determined what it will sound like. An audio track with crowd noise will be piped into stadiums across the NFL with league-mandated limits to the decibel level allowed.
FOX will attempt to recreate the live game experience in Detroit both visually and through sound. And if it’s a success, the network could bring virtual fans to other games this season. But the experiment will start with the Lions this weekend.
Fake crowd noise comes under fire
The NFL using artificial crowd noise has already come under fire by one NFL head coach. The San Francisco 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan called it a form of human torture. It’s unclear how fans will react to the change or how it might impact the viewing experience.
After doubts that the NFL would even be able to play games this season due to the pandemic and the league subsequently canceling all preseason contests, fans are surely grateful just to have football back again. Even if some of those fans will be virtual in the Motor City on Sunday.