The CES, the largest trade show in North America, is the latest victim of COVID-19.
The Consumer Technology Association says it is moving much of the CES online, and vows to return to the Las Vegas Convention Center for a physical show in January 2022.
"We've been optimistic, but realistic," says Gary Shapiro, CEO of the CTA. "We had no choice but to reimagine CES."
Shapiro isn't alone. Most large-scale trade shows have been canceled this year, starting with the Mobile World Congress in February, and extending to Apple, Facebook and Google developer sessions.
Apple successfully moved its Worldwide Developers Conference online.
The Black Hat USA security conference, which provides security consulting, training, and briefings to hackers, corporations and government agencies, has moved online; it's set for early August. Dreamforce, the meeting put on by Salesforce that has previously taken over San Francisco, is set for November. And the bulk of the Republican and Democratic political conventions are expected to occur online.
"Any show planned for 2020 has been canceled," says President of Creative Strategies Tim Bajarin, who has attended 46 CES shows. "I don't think we'll see live shows coming back until mid-2021 at the earliest."
Virtual shows, however, haven't found their usual assortment of buzz and media coverage online. The recent Comic-Con convention, a huge draw for fans of sci-fi and geek culture, was a "bust" according to Variety.
"If Comic-Con@Home achieved anything, it was revealing the abiding truth that there is no substitute for the live experience," the publication said
A 53-year-old show transitions online
This will mark the first time that no physical CES show will be staged since its launch in 1967. In the past few months, CES had vowed to go on with the show, until the resurgence of the coronavirus caused a major rethink.
The CES, where thousands of new products are introduced and companies like LG, Samsung and Sony exhibit alongside small startups. is also a place where executives give presentations on the future of technology. Others engage in panel discussions. The show draws upwards of 175,000 people yearly to Las Vegas.
Beyond the dailyactivities, there are dinners, parties and networking meetings and that the CES won't be able to replicate online.
But Shapiro said the presentation of new products online could mean exposure to a wider audience.
Because people won't have to travel to Las Vegas, and much of the show will be available for free online viewing, Shapiro says he'll have a much bigger audience for the CES online than the yearly 175,000 figure.
Asked to assess the financial hit from not being able to collect booth rentals and sponsorship fees, Shapiro demurred, but admitted it was "millions and millions" of dollars.
The impact on Las Vegas could be even bigger, with the loss of lodging, dining, transportation and other costs associated with the event. In January, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said the CES would contribute more than $283 million to the Las Vegas economy.
Shapiro says the CES is investing heavily in moving the show online, and is planning to spend the next five months figuring out innovative ways to stage the show and keep it interesting.
"Do I think people will spend 40 hours in front of computers, watching it?" he says. "Of course not. But there's a lot we can do."
A virtual CES "won't be as successful," says Bajarin, "but if they’re creative enough, they can pull off an effective CES show to meet the needs of their own members."
The CES will be available for viewing online Jan. 6-9.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: CES ditches in-person show for online presentation