NAB Show cancels April show in reaction to coronavirus


April’s NAB Show is off, one of the latest casualties of the coronavirus. It’s the first time in nearly 100 years that the industry gathering won’t be held.

“In the interest of addressing the health and safety concerns of our stakeholders and in consultation with partners throughout the media and entertainment industry, we have decided not to move forward with NAB Show in April,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith, who said the industry group was looking at “a number of potential alternatives to create the best possible experience for our community.”

The decision came as the World Health Organization officially declared the outbreak a pandemic, noting that it had spread to more than 100 countries.

It also followed as more exhibitors, notably Avid, which has one of the biggest booths in the South Hall, announced they wouldn’t be attending.

NAB Show looks at next steps

The NAB’s Smith said the organization was “weighing the best potential path forward,” noting that the organization was “committed to exploring all possible alternatives so that we can provide a productive setting where the industry can engage with the latest technology, hear from industry thought leaders and make the game-changing connections that drive our industry forward.”

Whether that occurs this year is still in question, but Smith said it was at least possible the show would be rescheduled in 2020.

An increasing number of media and entertainment, tech and content companies also have announced near draconian limits on travel, internationally and domestically, with some even banning employees from taking part in public events and gatherings.

The pandemic becomes official

The World Health Organization had been reluctant to classify the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic, but the number of countries involved and fact that more than 120,000 people globally have been infected – including 1,080 in the U.S. – prompted the move.

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chief of the W.H.O., said at a news conference in Geneva. “We cannot say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough… All countries can still change the course of this pandemic.”

NAB Show makes tough decision

Since its inaugural event in 1923, the NAB Show in Las Vegas has become the biggest gathering of media, entertainment and technology companies driving the convergence of media.

More than 160 countries were represented at the show in 2019, with 92,912 attendees, including 24,000 international visitors touring more than 1,600 exhibitions.

Obviously, cancelling the show was a difficult decision, one that has significant financial impact to attendees and to the City of Las Vegas.

The NAB has been reluctant to cancel the show, citing increased registrations and growing interest in the evolution of the industry. Even though the decision may have come a tad later than many expected, the NAB showed strong leadership in making the decision. It was the right thing to do in the face of continuing uncertainty.

The bottom line

The NAB Show may take place later this year. It may be postponed until April of 2021. But regardless of when it eventually happens, the bottom line is that business will go on.

We are on the cusp of a major change in how content is delivered to consumers, and in many markets and verticals it’s already occurred. Netflix’s reveal of the first “global TV network” encompassing 130 countries at CES in 2016 kicked things off and we’ve all been running at top speed since.

Now, it’s time for serious video, the time to help focus the intense interest consumers globally have on streaming into new products that take us into the next generation of how TV is delivered.

If we learn little else, this crisis will teach us about the need to be agile, to be able to move forward at a time when the natural instinct may trend more toward hibernation.

Call it the small silver lining of a seriously dark cloud, but it is at moment like this that innovation happens.

Stay tuned… and stay well.

Jim O’Neill is Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn