Report: NBA considering using digital fans when season resumes

Oct 25, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; American actor and director and Knicks fan Spike Lee reacts during the fourth quarter between the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As the NBA works toward a plan for resuming the 2019-’20 season, league officials are balancing countless details and changes to help bring basketball back. While the health of players is the league’s top priority, the NBA is also considering some unusual ideas.

Facing the inevitability of games being played without fans in attendance, which carries significant financial ramifications, the NBA is reportedly considering a creative way to bring some energy to the arena.

In an interview with The New York Post, New York University professor Brandon Brown said the league is considering digitally adding fans to broadcast when the season resumes. Browner, a sports management professor, shared the insight from an NBA official about the possibility of using digital fans.

“So from a TV perspective, you could see a full crowd displayed on a green screen that looks real, but is actually a crowd from a previous game,” Brown said, via The New York Post.

While virtual fans might not help the NBA make up for the revenue hit from lost ticket sales, it would provide a sense of normalcy for fans watching at home. When the NBA Playoffs start, the league and television networks can grab old footage from prior playoff games and make it part of the broadcast.

The league official told Brown that the NBA is working on adding audible cheers for each game, but they still are having issues syncing the sound with a made basket. However, the NBA is already at the experiment stage with technology that they’ve never used before.

It was unusual over the weekend to see the NASCAR race and Bundesliga soccer games without fans in the stands. While viewers at home could get used to it, the NBA wants to provide everyone with a sense of normalcy during this global pandemic. If that means pumping in some artificial crowd noise and virtual fans, the league should go for it.