Coronavirus impact: SXSW layoffs, NAB cancellation, MIPTV explores “online alternatives”

UPDATED WITH NAB SHOW NEWS, WEDNESDAY MAR. 11 3:04 P.M. EST: As the international COVID-19/coronavirus outbreak, now officially branded as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, continues to ...
March 11, 2020

UPDATED WITH NAB SHOW NEWS, WEDNESDAY MAR. 11 3:04 P.M. EST: As the international COVID-19/coronavirus outbreak, now officially branded as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, continues to rise in the number of reported cases, the entertainment industry, like many other businesses, is reeling from unprecedented disruption.

And with major conferences and festivals such as South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, MIPTV in Cannes and Series Mania in Lille canceled for this year, content creators and buyers are watching nervously to see what upcoming events might be forced to pull the plug, while event organizers are in constant contact with local and national health authorities, and their insurers, with little choice but to echo the frequent refrain that has been used since late January – “we are monitoring a rapidly evolving situation.”

Beyond the producers, directors and buyers impacted by the cancellations, word is now filtering out about how the events are being affected themselves. As first reported by the Austin Chronicle, SXSW was in the unfortunate position of laying off approximately 50 employees, or about one-third of its staff, with an unnamed senior official at the fest telling the outlet it was “the only way to stop the bleeding” following the cancellation, ordered by the City of Austin.

Those let go ranged from veteran staffers to new hires across multiple departments. The source also told the Chronicle that they were “hopeful” that the conference would return in 2021, but CEO Roland Swenson admitted to the Wall Street Journal that “how we’re going to do that I’m not entirely sure.”

For MIPTV, while numerous registered delegates have been reaching out to parent company Reed MIDEM concerning refunds for the canceled event, news emerged Tuesday (March 10) from its official Twitter account that organizers are “looking into online alternatives for MIPTV content & networking. Watch this space!”

A MIPTV spokesperson has told Realscreen that, concerning these alternatives, “We aim to communicate details this week.” In terms of refunds, the spokesperson said that Reed MIDEM “will be contacting clients on this subject in the coming days.”

Now, industry executives are looking towards such upcoming events as the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, slated for April 15-26, and two events in Cannes — the annual Cannes Film Festival, slated for May 12-23, and the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, slated for June 22-26. In the case of the Film Festival, its president, Pierre Lescure told Le Figaro that he is “reasonably optimistic” that the event will continue as scheduled, but that if the coronavirus outbreak worsens, “we will cancel.”

Meanwhile, the team behind the Cannes Lions, which is geared towards the global advertising industry but features many content creators and producers within its programming, says it is still aiming to take place in June, but that provisional dates are reportedly being considered for the fall, according to sources.

Another major global gathering for the entertainment business, the upcoming NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show in Las Vegas, slated for April 18-22, has also been canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In a message posted on the NAB Show site, NAB’s president and CEO Gordon H. Smith said: “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. We are currently considering a number of potential alternatives to create the best possible experience for our community.

“This was not an easy decision,” he added. “Fortunately, we did not have to make this decision alone, and are grateful to our NAB Show community for engaging with us as we grappled with the rapidly-evolving situation. This Show is as much yours as it is ours, and it is important to us that we move forward together.”

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.