SXSW 2020 canceled due to coronavirus and ticket buyers will not receive refunds

SXSW is officially canceled by the City of Austin. This comes after companies such as CNN, Apple, LinkedIn, IBM, Netflix, WarnerMedia, TikTok, Amazon Studios, Intel, Facebook, Twitter and Panasonic bail on the event.

South By Southwest Conference And Festivals - Day 4

Scenes like this with actress Mandy Moore and actor Milo Ventimiglia in 2018 are common at SXSW.

Image: Jim Bennett/Getty Images

On Friday last week, with just days to go before SXSW 2020 was set to begin on March 13, the event was canceled by the City of Austin. The music, film, tech, art and gaming conference brings in over 400,000 people from around the world, and more than $350 million in local economic impact.

SXSW organizers said in a statement, "The City of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City's directions. We are devastated to share this news with you. '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 organizers said they are looking at options to reschedule the event and provide a virtual SXSW online experience, beginning with SXSW EDU. 

SEE: Coronavirus having major effect on tech industry beyond supply chain delays (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The festival is not refunding ticket buyers for their purchases, and tickets to SXSW can cost up to $1,550 for a Platinum badge, which allows access to nearly every event available as part of SXSW. The American-Statesman reported that the festival organizers do plan to allow those who paid to attend to use their registrations in a future year instead. The Refund & Revocation Policy states that SXSW does not issue refunds under any circumstances.

Apple, IBM, Netflix, TikTok and Amazon among companies that bailed on SXSW

Apple, LinkedIn, IBM, Netflix, WarnerMedia, TikTok, Amazon Studios, Intel, Facebook, Twitter and Panasonic were among the first to bail due to worries about the coronavirus. 

Earlier on Friday, media giant CNN cancelled its plans to participate. CNN issued the following statement, "Out of an abundance of caution and because the situation has been changing so rapidly, CNN has limited all non-essential travel and events for its employees until further notice. Because of that, CNN will not be moving forward with the CITIZEN by CNN House at SXSW this year."

SXSW one of many tech conferences canceled due to coronavirus

South by Southwest was scheduled for March 13-22 and normally takes place at venues throughout Austin. It's the kind of event where you can rub elbows with Jon Hamm, bump into random aliens, bleed for the throne at an HBO Game of Thrones activation, pet a Hellhound from Amazon's Garden of Earthly Delights at various locations, and then walk down the street to another setting to learn about technology such as what LG is doing with 5G mobility or find out more about the future of autonomous vehicles. It's a magical kind of place and seems like the type of event that the real world can't affect but, sadly, this year it is as the threat of the coronavirus and COVID-19 looms large.

The event was threatened in recent days as Sony, Universal and Warner Music advised employees not to attend. RealSelf  canceled its popular House of Modern Beauty event. All of the Hypergiant SXSW activations were canceled. The Latinx House was closed. The Capital Factory canceled its startup crawl. And entertainers such as Atticus Ross, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily Gordon, Ozzy Osbourne, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and the Beastie Boys had already bailed with more surely to come over the weekend before SXSW's organizers made the announcement. 

Hillary Clinton, Andrew Yang and Chris Evans were still listed as speakers at SXSW

There were big names still on the marquee. Hillary Clinton, Adam Schiff, Beto O'Rourke and Andrew Yang were late additions to the schedule as part of the "Conversations about America's Future" series and they hadn't yet said they were canceling. Chris Evans was still listed as a keynote speaker. 

At this time, there have been more than 118,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 4,00 people have died. There are more than 1,000 cases and 32 deaths in the United States, including presumptive positive cases. The entire country of Italy is on lockdown with 60 million residents under restrictions. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that officials are implementing a "containment area" centered in New Rochelle, a suburb of New York City. Within the containment area, a 1-mile radius, large gathering places will be closed for two weeks, officials said. That includes schools and places of worship.

This article was updated on March 11, 2020.

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