The NFL has not been immune to the effects of the economic shutdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and they are preparing for a much different viewing experience in 2020 for their fans.
It's sounding more and more likely that if we get football in September, it'll have to be done without full capacity of fans in the stadium. Whether they'll sell every fifth seat or not seats at all, the league will likely have mostly empty stadiums for their season openers this year.
Joe Buck, Fox's top play-by-play man, joined Andy Cohen on SiriusXM this week and spoke to some potential options for the league this Fall. Buck said that we could hear added crowd noise under the announcers' voices to normalize the broadcast a bit. In fact, he even went as far as to say he knows this has been discussed and is a “pretty much a done deal.”
“I think Fox and these networks have to put crowd noise under us to make it a normal viewing experience at home.”
Buck also spoke to what the league is considering to do with the appearance of completely empty stadiums, which would only add to the creepiness of watching a live game without fans.
“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.”
Some other sports may not have the crowd noise issue, even when playing games without fans. For example, basketball can play music during the game (similar to how they already do it) which would liven up the atmosphere more naturally.
This can't be done the same way with football, or at least it's not something we've seen during normal broadcasts thus far.
There's no question that this will all be weird to watch, but weird football is better than no football.