AUSTIN (CBS SF) — The organizers of the annual South By Southwest music and tech festival on Friday announced that the city of Austin has cancelled the events scheduled to take place starting next week.
The announcement was made via the SXSW website and social media accounts at around 2 p.m. PST Friday.
“We are devastated to share this news with you,” the announcement read. “‘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.”
The announcement also noted that the cancellation of “the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU” was ordered by city of Austin officials and that “SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions.”
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The festival announcement noted that as recently as Wednesday, city health officials had said that there was “no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer,” but that the situation had changed rapidly.
The festival is looking into options to reschedule the ten-day event that was set to start on March 13 and are hoping to provide a virtual SXSW online experience for conference participants, according to the released statement.
The cancellation of SXSW came one day after Silicon Valley tech giants Apple and Netflix joined social media mainstays Facebook and Twitter in cancelling plans to send its employees to and take part in the annual lifestyle, tech, entertainment and music festival, citing coronavirus fears.
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 a 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,” explained Reilly. “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 as of Tuesday they still intended to go forward with the event from March 13-22.