CES Cancels Annual In-Person Event, Moves to Online Only for 2021

The world’s biggest consumer electronics event becomes the latest annual conference to scrap its plans due to COVID-19

CES, the world’s biggest annual tech and consumer electronics event, canceled its in-person Las Vegas exhibition for 2021 on Tuesday, becoming the latest major conference to scrap plans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Technology Association, the organization behind the event, said Tuesday the event would be moving to online-only next year; the virtual event is expected to take place between January 6 and January 9, 2021.

The event usually brings in upwards of 150,000 attendees each year, who come from around the world to check out the latest TVs, robots, and major tech news, among other attractions. The most recent CES, for example, stood out because Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman gave a first look at Quibi, the new mobile-focused streaming service. This year’s event already saw a diminished turnout from China because of COVID-19, and Shapiro said the pandemic makes holding the event next year next to impossible.

“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,” Shapiro said.

This marks the first time since the inaugural event, held in New York City in 1967, that CES has had to move to an all-digital exhibition.

CES isn’t the first tech event to move online due to the coronavirus; Facebook earlier this year announced both its 2020 and 2021 F8 developer conference would now strictly virtual, and Apple held its annual WWDC conference in June online, rather than having attendees at its Cupertino, California campus as usual.

Many in Las Vegas, as The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, had been holding out hope CES 2021 would still be held in-person, as the city’s events business has been severely dented by the pandemic. The Las Vegas metro area had a 29% unemployment rate in May, the highest of any city with more than 1 million people, per the Journal.