LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fox will be taking viewers out to the ballgame by adding a virtual crowd in parks during its baseball telecasts this season.
The network revealed on Thursday that it will include computer-generated fans in the stands beginning with their three games on Saturday. Fox begins its coverage with Milwaukee at the Chicago Cubs, followed by San Francisco at Los Angeles Dodgers, and concluding with the New York Yankees at Washington.
Judging how fan opinions about crowd noise being added to baseball games have been mixed, Fox may draw some jeers for adding fans to empty ballparks. But Fox Sports vice president Brad Zager, who oversees live event productions and operations, is hoping that people give it a chance before making a definitive opinion.
“We believe that what we’re doing is creating a natural viewing experience,” Zager said. “Sports is supposed to be an escape and when people have that escape we want it to feel as normal as possible when there’s very little normalcy, like a crowd at a baseball game on a Saturday.
“We’re not looking to fool everyone. We know it is a virtual crowd. But we also know how jarring watching a game in an empty stadium is on TV.”
Fox has been working on a solution to no crowds since late March, when most realized crowds were not going to be allowed to return to stadiums and arenas because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fox Sports president Eric Shanks said the early versions looked rudimentary and resembled “a better version of Donkey Kong” but has improved exponentially since then.