SXSW conference canceled amid heightened coronavirus concerns

2019 SXSW Conference And Festival - Day 8
The SXSW Conference and Festival at Auditorium Shores on March 15, 2019 in Austin, Texas. Copyright Tim Mosenfelder Getty Images file
By Ahiza García-Hodges with NBC News Tech and Science News
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Up until Friday, SXSW had continued to move forward with its plans, adding speakers as recently as this week.


The mayor of Austin, Texas announced on Friday that the city had declared a disaster due to the coronavirus outbreak, a move that resulted in the cancellation of the South by Southwest conference.

The annual event brings thousands of visitors to the city for conferences centered around discussions on technology, media, sports, education and video gaming. There is also a major film festival and a music festival.

"It's a really important event to our city in a lot of ways, tied to who we are in this city," Steve Adler, mayor of Austin, said in a press conference. "I look forward to the next iteration of SXSW when it comes back for us."

In 2019, the two-week event drew more than 417,000 visitors from 106 countries. According to a report released by SXSW, the event brought $356 million to the city's economy.

Up until Friday, SXSW had continued to move forward with its plans, adding speakers as recently as this week. Other major events, including Miami's Ultra Music Festival, Facebook's F8 Developer Conference and IBM's Think conference, have been canceled across the country.

Numerous event partners and participants had already pulled out of the two-week conference and festival.

On Sunday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was scheduled for a keynote talk but withdrew following his company's decision to pull out of the conference and no longer host its SXSW house.

Following Twitter's withdrawal, Facebook and Intel withdrew on Monday. Facebook had several employees participating as panelists and Intel had on-site activities planned.

"Due to concerns related to coronavirus, our company and employees will not be participating in SXSW this year," a Facebook spokesperson said in an email.

The following day, Amazon Studios announced it was dropping out, followed a day later by Apple and Netflix. The three companies had a number of events planned for SXSW, including several film premieres.

On Thursday, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal said they would also be dropping out of the festival over concerns about coronavirus. The media companies had a slew of employees participating on panels and other on-site events planned.

NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC News.

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