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Fox Sports’ Fake Crowd Noises Divide Opinion Amid NRL Ratings Success

F
ox Sports’ decision to artificially boost crowd volume on NRL broadcasts has been met with mixed reactions.

Despite most matches being allowed a 75% capacity crowd, Fox Sports have opted to overlay simulated crowd noise onto the real crowd noise.

Nine, the free-to-air broadcaster of the competition, do not use artificial crowd noise in its broadcasts this season.

In 2020, however, with games played in front of no or limited fans, both broadcasters used technology to artificially simulate fan noise.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Fox Sports executive director, Steve Crawley, said they have made the decision to boost their coverage.

“If we think that crowd effects enhances the situation and makes it a better experience for our audience, we’ll do it in a subtle way,” Crawley told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“You don’t want people to notice.

“When crowds return to something near capacity we won’t be doing that sort of stuff.

“Our audio has been followed in Europe and America.

“People from around the world have contacted us and taken our lead on this.

“I’m not embarrassed by it,” he said.

Crawley also said they aim to add crowd noise subtlety and that he is yet to receive any negative or positive feedback.

Despite this talking point, Fox Sports and Nine have both enjoyed strong ratings in the first two rounds of the NRL season.

Fox Sports saw record-breaking numbers in the opening round, with an average audience of 372,000 across the eight games.

This was the highest ever ratings for an opening round in Australian subscription television history.

The broadcaster’s streaming services Kayo, Foxtel GO, and Foxtel Now grew by a significant 74% from last year.

Nine improved on their opening game figure of 391,000 from last year, when the Storm and Rabbitohs game saw 463,000 watching across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The Friday night primetime game between the Broncos and Eels drew the next largest number of viewers, with an average audience of 429,000.

This was strongly followed up with 398,000 viewers for Nine’s latest Thursday night game between the Storm and Eels.

Last weekend saw the AFL and NRL compete against each other for ratings for the first time this year.

The NRL won the audience figures in Brisbane and Sydney, whilst the AFL saw the most viewers in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth.