SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Silicon Valley tech giants Apple and Netflix have joined social media mainstays Facebook and Twitter in citing coronavirus fears for cancelling plans to send its employees to and take part in the annual lifestyle, tech, entertainment and music festival — South by Southwest — in Austin later this month.
According to Daily Variety, Netflix has cancelled five film screenings and a panel for #BlackExcellence. The streaming company had planned to screen five films including feature film “Uncorked,” and four documentaries: “A Secret Love,” “L.A. Originals,” “Mucho Mucho Amor” “Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics.”
Apple, meanwhile, also has cancelled plans to debut three Apple TV+ originals at the Austin gathering.
In an Tuesday appearance on CBSN Bay Area, CNET Senior Editor Claire Reilly said both Facebook and Twitter considered the risks posed by travel and large gatherings during the current coronavirus outbreak and decided to cancel their plans.
“Companies are beginning to realize this isn’t a problem in just one part of the world,” Reilly said. “They are doing something to make sure their staff is safe and that they are not making the problem worse. We’ve seen both Twitter and Facebook pull out of the South By Southwest conference in Austin.”
“This (SXSW) is kind of an advertising, cultural, rock music — it’s where all the cool people go I’m told. But what we seen them (Facebook and Twitter) do is (determine) that it’s not worth risking their employees safety.”
Reilly said Facebook and Twitter are large companies, so they can take a marketing hit from not having a presence this year.
“Whether other companies follow suit with this particular conference we’ll have to wait and see,” she said.
Facebook had a number of employees who were slated to be guest speakers on festival panels and also planned to once again host the popular Facebook house exhibit. Twitter announced on Sunday that CEO Jack Dorsey was pulling out of his commitment to be a major speaker at the festival.
More than 20,000 people have signed a petition calling for festival to be cancelled this year, but organizers said Tuesday they still intended to go forward with the event from March 13-22.
At a Wednesday news conference, Dr. Mark Escott, interim medical director and health authority for Austin Public Health, said despite the cancellations, the festival would go on.
“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,” he said. “We’ve asked this group to evaluate that, and if there’s any evidence that our community will be safer by closing down public events, we’ll do that.”