NAB Cancellation Fallout: AES 2021 Goes Virtual, InfoComm Still a Go, IBC Clears Regulatory Hurdle

Vendors lament but understand the NAB decision

After several major exhibitors opted to pull out over the past week, the National Association of Broadcasters officially canceled the 2021 NAB Show in Las Vegas yesterday. Marking the second consecutive year the in-person show was canceled because of safety concerns over the pandemic, the show will transition to a virtual format: NAB Amplify.

As a result of the cancellation, the AES Show, which was to be co-located in Las Vegas, also announced that it will forgo an in-person show in favor of a virtual event: AES Fall Online Show 2021. Meanwhile, according to AVIXA CEO Dave Labuskes,  InfoComm will go on as planned in Orlando Oct. 23–29.

Exhibitor Exodus Dooms In-Person NAB 2021

The 2021 in-person NAB Show will be virtual instead of in-person.

News broke Wednesday morning that the NAB Show will once again be canceled. NAB EVP/Managing Director, Global Connections and Events, Chris Brown released a statement saying, “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.”

With NAB 2021 nixed, the industry will look to the 2022 NAB Show, which is set for April 23-27, 2022, as well as the virtual NAB Amplify event, which will feature virtual options for accessing selected 2021 NAB Show content.

The announcement followed several big exhibitors’ decision to pull out of the show: Canon, Panasonic, Ross Video, Sony, Adobe, Avid, Blackmagic Design, and Brainstorm. NAB had been promoting “more than 600” exhibitors at this year’s show compared with the latest in-person show, in 2019, which listed 1,600.

AES Follows Suit, Cancels Las Vegas Event 

AES will hold a virtual version of its 2021 show, which was set to take place in Vegas.

Hours after the annual NAB expo in Las Vegas announced its cancellation, the Audio Engineering Society’s closely associated AES Show issued the same declaration.

“The AES convention was co-located with the NAB Show, and following the NAB announcement, the AES will regrettably cancel the in-person AES Show Las Vegas 2021, planned for October 10- 13,” the organization said in a statement. “We apologize for the change in plans, but we hope you understand that it was not feasible to continue as planned. The AES Fall Online program will proceed, with events taking place online Oct. 16-31, including a broadly focused technical program Oct. 20-23.”

The cancellation of the AES expo was not unexpected, but it did disappoint professional-broadcast-audio exhibitors who had looked forward to showing new products and interacting with customers.

“We’re sad that we’re going to be unable to get together with everyone at AES but glad that we’ll be contributing to the community’s safety and eliminating the potential for more spread of the virus,” says Phil Wagner, SVP, SSL, a broadcast-audio–console manufacturer that is under the Audiotonix umbrella, which also includes Calrec. “We’ll miss the trade-show environment and the opportunity to interact with customers but look forward to doing so when it’s once again safe.”

AES further stated that information will be forthcoming for those who have registered for the in-person convention, including converting that registration to cover the online program.

InfoComm Is Still a Go in Orlando 

AVIXA CEO Dave Labuskes says InfoComm will go on as planned next month.

On the same day as NAB’s announcement, AVIXA CEO Dave Labuskes said that InfoComm, which is set to be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando Oct. 23-29, will go on as planned.

“If there’s anything we’ve learned in the last two years, it’s that nobody has the ability to say anything with certainty anymore,” he said. “What I will tell you is that, short of the local government of Orlando or Orange County or Florida or the federal government of the U.S. telling us that we are violating the law in having an event, we will be having InfoComm.

“There is no greater physical manifestation of the marketplace than a trade show,” Labuskes continued. “Nor is there a greater physical manifestation of community than that trade show. Throughout all of those conversations [at a recent AVIXA board planning meeting, for example], community becomes a part of it. I know that 2021 is not the year for everybody to be either in the show or at the show, and I respect their decision in that regard and anxiously look forward to seeing them in 2022, both personally and professionally.”

Listen to the full, one-hour interview HERE.

Focus Turns to IBC 

Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte at a press conference on Sept. 14 (Photo: RVD/Minister-President at Twitter)

With the NAB Show canceled, all eyes are now on the IBC Show set to be held at the RAI in Amsterdam Dec. 3-6. Good news came in the form of The Netherlands’ announcement that it will no longer enforce rules meant to keep people 1.5 meters apart. The country will instead begin much wider use of coronavirus access passes starting Sept. 25: people wanting to gain entry to various venues will be required to demonstrate proof of vaccination against COVID-19, recovery from an infection of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, or a negative test for the infection within 24 hours of entry.

Under the new regulations, indoor events, like IBC, where people do not stay in a fixed seat will be allowed at 75% capacity, provided they use coronavirus access passes. Other hospitality businesses, cinemas, music venues, professional sports events, and cultural sites can return to 100% capacity.

Industry Reacts to NAB Show Cancellation

Grass Valley’s Neil Maycock says the company understands the decision to cancel the NAB Show.

Although the major technology vendors and manufacturers were largely silent, Grass Valley opted to make a statement shortly after the announcement of the NAB Show cancellation.

“Grass Valley was 100% behind NAB Show, and we were all looking forward to being back in Las Vegas again,” said Neil Maycock, CMO/GM, playout, Grass Valley. We firmly believe in NAB’s focus and ability to deliver a safe and valuable event. However, given the dwindling industry support, we totally understand that NAB has no option but to make the decision to cancel the October show.

“NAB is always an effective way for us to meet lots of customers and partners and to share our latest thinking and innovations,” he continued. “To bridge this gap, we will be shifting to a series of online customer and industry events, as we did during 2020 and the first half of 2021. We continue to see live trade shows as a key part of our industry engagement and are looking forward to NAB Show in April 2022.”

A handful of other technology vendors also commented on the news.

Xytech dropped an emergency episode of its Xytech After Dark podcast:

Keycode Media President Mike Cavanagh commended NAB’s decision:

Vislink expressed disappointment at the show’s demise:

Dan Daley contributed to this story. More information coming on this evolving story. 

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