• Loading stock data...
Sunday, June 16, 2024

NFL Week 1 Ratings Roundup: Virtual Fans Stay on Sidelines

  • NFL Network talent support virtual fans and louder artificial crowd noise.
  • NFL's overall Week 1 game viewership slid 8% to average 16.2 million.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Alone among NFL broadcasters, Fox Sports is experimenting with the use of so-called “virtual” fans during live game telecasts.

The network digitally inserted animated fans in the stands during its Week 1 regional coverage of the Detroit Lions’ 27-23 home loss to the Chicago Bears at an empty Ford Field. 

Fox didn’t experiment with virtual fans during Week 2 games. But several on-air talents at the league’s own NFL Network believe that increased use of virtual fans, and louder artificial crowd noise, would improve game telecasts this season.

“Virtual fans? Hey, listen, it’s better than no fans. Why not give it a whirl?” said Colleen Wolfe, host of “NFL GameDay Kickoff” and other shows on a media call. “I feel like it would probably inject a little bit of energy into the broadcast. So why not? They should definitely do that.”

Analyst Joe Thomas is also willing to give virtual fans a shot. The former All-Pro tackle for the Cleveland Browns said the league should also allow home teams to boost artificial crowd noise inside stadiums at key game moments.

“It would make the viewing experience much better. If it’s 3rd and 10, let them crank up the crowd noise. It gets the viewer at home excited,” said Thomas. “They haven’t allowed them to go over certain decibels yet because they really don’t want it to be an advantage one way or the other. But the home field should be an advantage.”

Analyst Steve Smith said watching crowd-less games from empty stadiums was a “super-weird” experience during Week 1.

“As a skill player, you thrive off the crowd noise. You can sense the shift of momentum in a game,” the five-time former Pro Bowler for the Carolina Panthers said. “When the home team is starting to lose momentum, and the away team is starting to gain confidence and take over the game, you can feel the shift. You can see the fan’s faces. You can hear the moans. Depending on the city, you can hear the fans turn on their home teams.”

Fox handles game production for “Thursday Night Football.” Using Pixatope software, Fox has been using virtual fans during live Major League Baseball telecasts this year.

By its own standards, the NFL had a lackluster TV performance in Week 1. 

Across TV and digital, NFL game telecasts averaged 16.2 million viewers. That was down 8% from last year’s opening week.

All four of the league’s prime time games suffered TV rating drops. TV audiences for NBC’s Opening Night and “Sunday Night Football” games, for example, fell 5% and 14% respectively.

The numbers were worse on cable TV, where audiences for ESPN’s Week 1 “Monday Night Football” doubleheader plummeted 18% and 27%.

Fox Sports, however, grew its viewership 7% for the late Sunday afternoon window featuring Tom Brady’s debut for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against Drew Brees’ New Orleans Saints.

Despite a matchup between two 0-1 teams, the league’s Week 2 TV numbers got off to a strong start during the premiere of “Thursday Night Football.” 

Roger Goodell

NFL’s Primetime TV Numbers Down in Week 1

TV audiences for all four of the NFL’s primetime games on NBC…
September 15, 2020

Combined TV/digital viewership for the Browns’ 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals grew 3% to 7.2 million from 7 million for last season’s comparable Week 2 matchup between the Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers.

Thursday’s night’s primetime telecast on NFL Network was the day’s most-watched TV show. Digital streaming across league, team, and Verizon Mobile media properties averaged 522,000 viewers per minute, the biggest-ever for a game shown exclusively on NFL Network.

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

ESPN Bought Its Tiny Stanley Cup Desk at a Canadian Furniture Store

An ESPN spokesperson says the tight spot was chosen for its view of the ice.

NFL Declined ESPN Offer to Drastically Reduce Sunday Ticket Price

The NFL’s prospects aren’t looking good in court.

Back in the ’Burbs? Bears Weighing Renewed Stadium Interest from Cities

Two suburban jurisdictions renew their efforts to land the Bears, despite the team’s downtown stadium plans.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

How the US Open is Designed for Drama

0:00

Featured Today

Jan 3, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; General view of the NFL shield logo signage before the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field.

Odds Stacked Against NFL in Multibillion-Dollar Sunday Ticket Trial

Why the class action trial does not look promising for the league.
Jan 7, 2024; San Francisco, California, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter (11) takes a three-point shot against the Golden State Warriors during the second half at Chase Center.
June 9, 2024

‘Bound to Happen’: The Age of the Sports Betting Scandal Has Arrived

A banishment, betting scheme, and guilty plea all in one scandal-filled span.
June 8, 2024

‘Experimental in Nature’: The Rapid, Confounding Rise of Streaming Bundles

Here’s why confusion continues to outweigh solutions in the streaming package boom.
June 2, 2024

The Nostalgia Market: Michael Jordan’s Memorabilia Remains Coveted, With Caveats

Due to scarcity, and sometimes, items’ undisclosed whereabouts, this world has limitations.

Charles Barkley Announces Retirement From Television

Charles Barkley announced that the 2024-25 season would be his final season as an NBA commentator, capping off 25 years with Turner.
June 12, 2024

Sage Steele Claims in Suit That Her Agents Prioritized Relationship With ESPN Over Her

She says CAA chose its relationship over ESPN over advocating for her.
Scottie Scheffler i
June 13, 2024

After Success With NFL and Women’s Hoops, Peacock Is Turning to Golf

Streaming coverage of the U.S. Open is growing.
Sponsored

How HOKA is Reimagining the NIL Relationship

HOKA, the renowned athletic footwear and apparel brand, is betting on a new reality with NIL.
June 12, 2024

Paramount-Skydance Merger Off: Could Deal With WBD Be Revived?

Shari Redstone abruptly calls off potential merger discussions between the CBS Sports parent and Skydance Media.
June 11, 2024

USA Cricket Is on the Cusp of a Historic Win. But Who Can Watch?

On Wednesday, the U.S. will face the pre-tournament favorite, India.
June 11, 2024

ESPN Extension Could Set Up Shannon Sharpe As Stephen A. Smith’s Successor

Sharpe is writing one of the great career comebacks in sports TV history.
June 11, 2024

After Long-Term French Open Deal, What’s Next for TNT Sports?

A 10-year rights deal for the French Open immediately becomes the longest in Warner Bros. Discovery’s portfolio.