UPDATED: How markets and festivals are contending with coronavirus

UPDATED 03/03/20 11:01 A.M. EST As preparations for the annual MIPTV conference in Cannes (pictured) ramp up, organizers Reed MIDEM are working to ensure that the much-discussed revamp of the spring ...
February 21, 2020

UPDATED 03/03/20 11:01 A.M. EST
As preparations for the annual MIPTV conference in Cannes (pictured) ramp up, organizers Reed MIDEM are working to ensure that the much-discussed revamp of the spring conference is met with approval from the international television content community.

But an extra wrinkle has been added to the prep work — the emergence of the COVID-19 or coronavirus outbreak, which has thus far impacted myriad similar conferences and festivals over the last several weeks.

In the case of MIPTV, set for March 30-April 2 and preceded over the weekend by MIPDoc and MIPFormats, measures being implemented thus far, according to earlier updates posted on the event site, include communication prior to the event and onsite, including signage and training of staff, of WHO recommendations regarding personal hand and respiratory hygiene; strengthened collaboration with local partners, such as airports, hotels and the city of Cannes, to ensure vigilance concerning health and safety practices; and reinforced medical team at the venue as well as increased standards of hygiene within the Palais.

As well, Reed MIDEM posted that it will offer “additional support to exhibitors who wish to adopt specific measures for their booths.”

However, as of March 3, the practical information page and the home page for the MIPTV site doesn’t contain that information. Following a move by the French government on February 29 to place a temporary nationwide ban on gatherings of 5,000 people or more, and increased speculation regarding whether the event would continue, organizers posted a brief update, which read: “MIPTV organizer Reed MIDEM continues to monitor events related to the coronavirus following new guidelines issued by the French government on February 29. The well-being of all MIPTV, MIPDoc and MIPFormats participants is our priority. We will provide additional updates in a timely manner. We thank you for your understanding.”

Finding an alternate date for MIPTV could prove to be challenging, given the number of events currently on the schedule that make substantial use of the conference’s main venue, the Palais des Festivals. If it goes ahead as planned, the Cannes Film Festival will take place in late May, to be followed by the rescheduled MIPIM for June 2-5, and the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, geared towards the global advertising industry, slated for June 22-26.

On Thursday (February 27), Reed MIDEM confirmed to Realscreen that the official Chinese pavilion will not be present at MIPTV this year as, according to Reed MIDEM, “The Government-funded delegation elected not to travel at this time.” The MIPTV organizer added: “We have other Chinese clients – distributors and buyers who are registered to date.” C21 Media first reported the news.

As for this year’s designated “country of honor” for the event, Korea, a Reed MIDEM spokesperson has told Realscreen: “As it stands today [February 27] the Korean delegation expects to attend.”

Stricter travel restrictions have been imposed for those coming to other countries from South Korea, following a spike in coronavirus cases.

On Friday (February 28), officials reported the first case of the virus in the Cannes area. According to reports, a fashion student from Cannes who was recently in Milan, another city now impacted by the outbreak, is now being treated at a hospital in Nice.

On Saturday (February 29) Reed MIDEM issued a statement in relation to its upcoming MIPIM event for the real estate industry, originally set to begin on March 10, saying the conference has now been postponed until June, following cancellations from several international firms.

On Wednesday (February 26), Reed MIDEM updated its information page to add that it is closely monitoring developments in Italy, where cases of coronavirus have also recently spiked. According to CNBC, Delta Airlines in the U.S. is waiving cancellation and change fees for travelers booked to or from Venice, Bologna or Milan’s two airports. Travelers with those bookings can rebook for until March 31, or cancel their flights. Similarly, Delta, United and American have said they would waive fees for flights to Seoul, South Korea due to the coronavirus situation.

As of February 26, Italy’s confirmed number of cases of coronavirus stands at 374, with the majority – 258 as of this writing – in the Lombardy region, where 10 towns are under quarantine.

Meanwhile, organizers of South by Southwest (SXSW), set to take place in Austin, Texas from March 13-22, are facing cancellations from various major companies originally slated to take part in myriad capacities. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey pulled out of a planned interview appearance, and the company is also not running its SXSW House this year. Facebook also confirmed it was not participating at the event due to concerns over travel, and premium music video provider Vevo also cancelled its annual event at the fest.

Tech company Intel has also confirmed that it will not be taking part in “on-site activities” at this year’s edition.

Still, event organizers say the conference and festival is moving ahead as scheduled, and recent additions to the speaker line-up have included Hillary Rodham Clinton in conversation with MSNBC’s Joy Reid, and journalist Gretchen Carlson.

SXSW’s information page, updated on Monday (March 2), read in part: “At this time, no health departments in the state have requested the cancellation of any gatherings as the current risk of person-to-person spread in their jurisdictions remains low. Historically, March is not a peak international travel month in Austin, but we will continue to monitor. Information and practices are changing during this rapidly evolving situation and we will continue to follow national guidelines. This being said, there are no imminent plans to postpone any current events.”

Also in the U.S., another major event in the conference calendar has issued an update concerning its monitoring of the situation and potential impact on delegates.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) issued a statement this week confirming that the annual NAB Show, which brings upwards of 1,600 exhibitors and 90,000 international delegates to Las Vegas, is moving forward as scheduled for April 18-22.

Like Reed MIDEM, NAB organizers say they are working in conjunction with WHO guidelines as well as those of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and local and state authorities. As well, organizers are working with the Las Vegas Convention Center, the airport authority, and area hotels and resorts to “coordinate appropriate safety procedures.”

Organizers have also stated that they are “working with China-based exhibitors and registered attendees to evaluate options for those unable to attend due to travel restrictions.”

NAB also saw fit to mention within its release that “attendance from China, although growing, represented less than 2% of total registered attendees in 2019.”

The NAB Show is posting regular updates on the situation here, while Reed MIDEM is posting updates for all of its events here.

In addition to MIPTV at the end of March, Reed MIDEM also has its MIPIM conference for the global real estate market slated just prior to MIPTV, and its MIDEM conference for the global music industry in June. As well, the second edition of MIP China — perhaps the event on its slate that stands to be most impacted should the virus outbreak continue — is still on the books for June 3-5, in Hangzhou.

Thus far, MIPIM is facing reported cancellations from such agencies and property firms as Lloyds Banking Group, Savills, Knight Frank, PGIM Real Estate, Landsec and Cushman & Wakefield.

Festivals and conferences across the entertainment industry and other fields have been impacted since the outbreak began in earnest earlier this year, with the Berlin Festival losing approximately 118 buyers from China who were slated to attend and a minimal number of attendees from other territories cancelling and stating the coronavirus as the primary reason.

The Mobile World Congress convention, meanwhile, cancelled its Barcelona event outright after major tech firms such as Ericsson and LG pulled out due to travel concerns.

According to MarketWatch, earlier this week AT&T announced it was pulling out of the San Francisco-based security conference RSA slated for mid-March, joining IBM, which pulled out the week before.

Still, in addition to MIPTV, upcoming events for the non-fiction screen content industry, including the Australia International Documentary Conference and Hot Docs, are moving forward as planned and boasting substantial international delegations and a global range of heavy-hitting buyers.

As of yesterday (Feb. 20), China has recorded 2,118 deaths stemming from the virus, while, according to reports, Chinese health officials have confirmed 74,576 cases on the mainland, with more than 12,000 of those having recovered.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.