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The uncertainly surrounding the 2021 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, currently slated to take place Oct. 9-13 in Las Vegas, keeps growing. Sony Electronics — traditionally one of the event’s largest exhibitors — said on Tuesday that it has made the decision to withdraw, followed by another large exhibitor, Canon, which announced that it pulled out on Friday.
The annual confab, which in 2019 reported attendance of roughly 91,000 (24,000 of which were international delegates) includes a massive technology exhibition as well as a conference. The event is typically held in Las Vegas during April, and in 2020 it was cancelled and replaced with an online program due to the coronavirus. An expected lighter 2021 event was moved to October, with NAB 2022 currently slated to return to Las Vegas next April.
NAB provided the following statement to THR on Friday: “NAB Show is an economic engine for our industry, and we look forward to delivering a productive in-person experience. We have taken important steps to prioritize the safety of our community and are excited to host the many exhibiting companies ready to meet with buyers and get back to business in Las Vegas.”
Addressing concerns over the Delta variant, earlier this month, NAB announced that proof of a full COVID-19 vaccination would be required by of attendees, exhibitors and staff, while additional guidelines would be made considering current CDC recommendations.
In announcing their plans this week, Canon and Sony also said they are withdrawing from Infocomm, which is slated for Oct. 23-29 in Orlando, Fla. Theresa Alesso, Sony’s pro division president, said in a statement released on Tuesday: “Sony Electronics has been closely monitoring the evolving situation of the COVID-19 Delta variant. With October on the horizon, we’ve considered the unprecedented circumstances and made the difficult decision that we will not be participating in person at next month’s NAB Show or InfoComm. While these events are an important forum to reach our customers and introduce new products, this is a choice we made to ensure we’re putting our employees’ and our partners’ health and well-being first.” She added that Sony would “continue to communicate and engage with our customers … to safely deliver exciting product news and updates.” It has planned an Oct. 10 press conference on the NAB virtual platform.
Said Canon in a statement released on Friday: “The communities that NAB and InfoComm represent are something that we will greatly miss this year, but the health and safety of our team members, customers, and potential show guests is our number one priority. Canon will continue our plans to communicate exciting new products and innovations in virtual and remote settings, and our teams all over the world will share our news and updates in the coming weeks. We are continuously monitoring the situation and we look forward to attending events in the future.”
Avid, Adobe and Blackmagic Design are among the key postproduction exhibitors that had already pulled out of the show. Avid, in fact, made the decision last spring, with Avid CEO Jeff Rosica telling The Hollywood Reporter in a June interview that a rush back to trade shows was “a bad idea.” He said, “I think we’re being a bit premature as an industry to rush back to trade shows. … I made a decision that we would not go to the big shows this year.”
In a recent video address, NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith called this year’s NAB Show “a beacon … one that will invigorate and guide us into 2022 with a new level of momentum” and added of the exhibition, “we know that many of our exhibiting partners and attendees have had to make very difficult decisions about whether to participate in this year’s Show – particularly our international partners. We respect their decisions as valued partners and look forward to seeing them again, if not next month, then at the 2022 NAB Show in April.”
For weeks, the uncertainty has been rising in the Hollywood community that typically attends this annual confab, with numerous exhibitors reaching out to customers that typically attend the show, asking if they plan to participate. NAB is promoting “more than 600” exhibitors, where in 2019 it advertised 1,600.
“I’m throwing in the towel on NAB,” one Hollywood area postproduction vet told THR this week, adding: “I talked with a lot of vendors that I planned on seeing, and they’re pulling out. From what I’m hearing, not many people from Los Angeles are going.”
Some also question the rationale for holding the show when NAB 2022 is slated to return in its typical timeframe just six months later (April 23-27), or with IBC (International Broadcasting Convention), which attracts a similar audience, currently slated to be held Dec. 3-6 in Amsterdam.
In addition to the exhibition, NAB has in place a lighter than usual conference; highlighted speakers include Nick Cannon and NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame inductee Lester Holt. Co-located events include the Audio Engineering Society Show.
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