NAB cancels 2021 event as Delta variant surges

The National Association of Broadcasters is the latest major industry organization to shift gears amid the recent rise in COVID-19 infections.

The organization announced Wednesday that this year's annual NAB Show, set for October 9-13, has been cancelled, with plans underway to offer "select" content from the event in a virtual format through its digital hub, NAB Amplify.

(Image source: NAB)
(Image source: NAB)

NAB had previously planned to hold the event in-person in Las Vegas, but was to require that all attendees show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

"For more than a year we have worked tirelessly to bring our industry together safely in Las Vegas at NAB Show. Unfortunately, the pandemic and surge of the Delta variant has presented unexpected and insurmountable challenges for our global community," Chris Brown, EVP and managing director of global connections and events at NAB, said in a statement. "As we have always kept the best interest and safety of the industry as our priority, it has become apparent in the face of these challenges that we can no longer effectively host NAB Show or our co-located events, the Radio Show and Sales and Management Television Exchange, in person."

Pandemic-willing, NAB intends to host its big annual event in-person next year. The 2022 NAB Show is currently set for April 23-27 in Las Vegas.

The NAB's decision comes almost a week after the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) announced that its annual show, Cable-Tec Expo, was shifting to an all-digital format. The original plan was for SCTE to host a hybrid event, with some showgoers attending online alongside a group that would be in person in Atlanta for the event, which is set for October 11-13.

The pandemic forced both NAB and SCTE to run their respective 2020 events in virtual form. NAB estimated that about 40,000 industry people accessed last year's online event, called NAB Show Express. Those participants consumed more than 1.6 million minutes of video content via the event's digital platform, according to NAB.

Who's next?

Recent decisions by NAB and SCTE to cancel events or move forward with all-virtual formats could put pressure on other coming events to consider doing the same.

Among events on the near-term horizon, MWC Los Angeles is currently set to run in-person from October 26-28. GSMA announced a health and safety plan last month that requires participants to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to access the venue. Temperature checks will be administered at event access points. The event venue, the Los Angeles Convention Center, will also utilize floor plans that incorporate social distancing requirements and employ a new cleaning, sanitation and disinfection team dedicated to the care of "high-touch public areas."

The Consumer Technology Association announced in August that it will require attendees of CES 2022, set for January 5-8 in Las Vegas, to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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