City of Austin, Texas, Cancels SXSW Media Festival

The City of Austin, Texas, March 6 formally canceled permits for the South by Southwest (SXSW) and SXSW EDU confabs, slated for March 13-22, due to growing concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19). Organizers said they would “faithfully” follow the city’s directions.

“We are devastated to share this news with you,” read a statement. “‘The show must go on'” is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.”

As recently as March 4, Austin Public Health stated that “there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.” However, the situation evolved rapidly after 19 confirmed cases for the virus were diagnosed in Texas.

The virus, which has no known cure, has infected more 100,000 people globally and killed upwards of 3,100 people. In the U.S. there have been 15 deaths attributed to coronavirus, in addition to about 300 cases.

President Trump March 6 signed an emergency $8.3 billion spending package to combat the virus.

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With myriad high-profile companies, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, WarnerMedia Entertainment and others, pulling out of the event over safety concerns for their employees, it seemed just a matter of time before the event would be canceled.

Organizers said they are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU.

Like San Diego Comic-Con International and other media gatherings, SXSW had become a platform for studios, digital media companies to announce projects across all distribution channels, including home entertainment.

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The festival is also an opportunity for local businesses, venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely on the increased business that 400,000 attendees generate.

“We understand the gravity of the situation,” read the statement, underscoring that the decision to cancel was out of organizers’ hands.

“We honor and respect the City of Austin’s decision, read the statement. “We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites. We continue to strive toward our purpose – helping creative people achieve their goals.”


Apple, Netflix, WarnerMedia Pull Out of SXSW Media Festival

Apple (Apple TV+), Netflix and WarnerMedia Entertainment are the latest high-profile media companies to cite the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) for nixing plans to attend the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival, slated for March 13-22 in Austin, Texas.

Founded in 1987, South by Southwest is an annual conglomeration of film, interactive media, music festivals and conferences increasingly attended by major media companies, including studios, to announce products, content, including home entertainment. Organizers say upwards of 200,000 people attended the event in 2019.

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Netflix was set to unveil five films at SXSW, including LA Originals, a documentary exploring the culture and landmarks of the Chicano and street art movement. The SVOD pioneer also had March 15 panel scheduled for “#BlackExcellence,” a family comedy series starring Rashida Jones and based in part on series creator’s Kenya Barris’ life.

Netflix’s decision comes about a month ahead of its branded stand-up comedy “Netflix Is a Joke Festival” in Los Angeles.

Apple was slated to screen upcoming Apple TV+ content, Beastie Boys Story, from director Spike Jonze; Sundance acquisition Boys Slate and series, “Central Park” and “Home.”

The companies join a growing list of media organizations opting not to send staff and talent to public events as a precaution. France’s annual MipTV 2020 confab in Cannes has been cancelled due to a government current order prohibiting large-scale public events.

California Governor Gavin Newsom March 4 declared a state of emergency following the death of an elderly woman near Sacramento. There are now 160 reported coronavirus cases in the U.S., with 11 deaths.

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Austin Public Health, which is testing one possible coronavirus patient, contends the risk to exposure at SXSW and within Austin remains low. Texas has 12 confirmed cases of the virus thus far.

“Today the threat of community spread in Austin remains low, however, we are prepared for it to happen here,” Dr. Mark Escott, interim medical director and health authority for Austin Public Health, said in a press conference.

“Right now, there is no evidence that closing South by Southwest or other activities is going to make this community safer. We are constantly monitoring that situation.”

Escott said Austin Public Health would continue to evaluate situation, adding that any evidence that the community would be safer by closing down public events, “we’ll do that.”

CNN just launched a pop-up podcast, “Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction,” with CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, covering the latest news of the COVID-19 virus and what people can do safeguard themselves.

Meanwhile, with increased numbers of events being cancelled due to virus concerns, the airline industry reported it expects to lose $63 billion to $113 billion in revenue from global passenger traffic in 2020.

The news nixed brief Wall Street gains with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 500 points and the S&P down more than 1%.