When the Premier League returns to TV on June 17th, the broadcasts will have piped-in, fake crowd noise. All three of NBCSN, Sky Sports, and BT Sport will use “atmospheric-enhanced audio” to add ambience to what would otherwise be a soundscape of echoing on-field noise and commentary.
From what I can tell, BT Sport will offer a feed without the crowd noise to all viewers. Sky Sports will offer a broadcast without artificial crowd noise to subscribers only. NBCSN will not have the option to remove it.
For both the US and UK broadcasts, a producer will have a suite of different sounds available to them on a virtual sound board and will play clips based on what’s happening in the match. NBCSN has teamed up with EA Sports to create a library of over 800 available sound clips unique to the teams being shown, according to Sports Illustrated. So when you’re watching an Arsenal home match, you’ll hear familiar refrains rather than generic cheering. Said Andrew Vance of EA Sports:
The simple way to look at it is the sound operator will be like a DJ. He will have a mix board and sound board where he can hit the button for reaction from a tackle from an away player or a shot from the home team. There is nothing simulated or generic. It is all club-specific content. You are hearing everything that has been captured from home fans.
Pierre Moossa, NBCSN’s coordinating producer for the Premier League, initially was against using artificial crowd noise; he felt the broadcasts should be authentic to the match being played. After watching Bundesliga matches both with and without the added sounds, he changed his mind, calling supporters “the soundtrack of the match.” Arlo White will hear the crowd noise in his headset; he thinks it will help him concentrate on calling the match.
I’ve watched German matches both with and without the added sound, and I think I prefer the crowd noise. For so many of us, football is an escape, something that can help briefly take our minds off the world around us. The artificial crowd noise helps the matches feel normal. Watching football without cheering, singing, and fan reactions was a constant reminder that things very much aren’t right. While there is some merit to that reminder, it just felt too weird.
On the other hand, with the natural soundscape broadcasts of empty stadium matches, it was cool to hear the players and coaches communicating. It would probably be even more interesting to listen in when the majority of them are speaking English.
Have you watched any of the broadcasts with the piped-in crowd noise? What did you think of it? Would you keep it on or turn it off?