CES 2021 Is Officially Cancelled, Will Be an All-Digital Experience

Illustration for article titled CES 2021 Is Officially Cancelled, Will Be an All-Digital Experience
Illustration: Consumer Technology Association

Listen closely, do you hear that? That’s the sound of hundreds of thousands of tech journalists, buyers, and exhibitors breathing a sigh of relief as today the Consumer Technology Association announced that its annual Consumer Electronics Show will be an all-digital experience for January 2021.

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The massive trade show, which usually takes place shortly after the holidays in Las Vegas every year, draws hundreds of thousands of industry professionals who are less than excited to ring in the new year by waiting in endless lines for taxis and ride-shares, eating terrible convention center food, and enduring the sights and sounds of Sin City. But CES 2021 is the latest trade show to fall victim to the covid-19 pandemic.

Previously, the Consumer Technology Association had announced plans it was still going to hold CES 2021 in Las Vegas in January, but with changes that would make it safer for attendees to stay socially distanced, and to accommodate those who had no plans of attending until an effective vaccine was available, which isn’t expected to arrive until later next year. The announcement was later followed by an informal survey the CTA emailed to past CES attendees gauging their interest in attending the show in 2021, which, presumably, wasn’t overwhelmingly supportive of the idea.

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In another email sent out this morning, CTA president and CEO Gary Shapiro announced there were no longer plans to hold CES 2021 as an in-person experience. “Amid the pandemic and growing global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it’s just not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early January 2021 to meet and do business in person. Technology helps us all work, learn and connect during the pandemic — and that innovation will also help us reimagine CES 2021 and bring together the tech community in a meaningful way. By shifting to an all-digital platform for 2021, we can deliver a unique experience that helps our exhibitors connect with existing and new audiences.”

The format change follows in the footsteps of other major trade shows and conventions that have switched to an online-only format—for better or for worse—including San Diego Comic-Con 2020 which just wrapped up. Technical challenges and disruptions to the film and TV industry put a damper on announcements made at SDCC 2020, but hopefully, the CTA has enough time to learn from these mistakes and ensure that similar issues don’t disrupt announcements and product reveals already planned for CES 2021.

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DISCUSSION

It was to be expected with the current state of the pandemic. Still a huge blow to those of us who live in Las Vegas and work in the tradeshow and events industry. “...enduring the sights and sounds of Sin City”... really? C’mon, while Las Vegas might not be for everyone, it’s a big draw for plenty of the attendees!