NFL, TV partners navigating pandemic and future rights deals

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Las Vegas Raiders players warms up during an NFL football training camp practice at Allegiant Stadium, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

In a year in which few things are normal, there will be some familiar things about NFL broadcasts this season.

Announcers will be in the stadiums, pregame shows will have their usual fill of banter and debate and the regular season will start on time.

But will it translate to an increase in ratings for a third straight year? Opinions are mixed, but Neal Pilson, the former president of CBS Sports who now runs his own sports television consulting company, thinks there will be growth because of many factors.

“More people are home, all those that go to the game will be home watching which will add up in some markets plus there might not be as much group viewing,” he said.

Pilson also points to the NFL starting its regular season on time as another positive factor while the NHL and NBA are trying to complete their postseasons months later than they would normally finish.

Onnie Bose, the NFL's VP of Broadcasting, said they looked at how the other leagues approached things before coming up with their protocols. One of the advantages of football is that it is a tightly-shot sport, which can mitigate showing empty stadiums.

NFL Films will supply the crowd noise for games because of the lack of fans. They have been gathering multi-channel surround audio recordings from every NFL stadium for use in their productions over the past four seasons. The sounds will be fed to the broadcast by a league-hired operator who is following the game and using a button panel to control playback from custom-configured software.

Fan mosaic LED boards may also be used at some stadiums and bigger games.