- Google canceled its I/O 2020 developer conference due to concerns around coronavirus, according to a blog post. The annual gathering, Google's largest, was slated for May 12-14 in Mountain View, California.
- The company said in the coming weeks it will "explore other ways to evolve Google I/O" and connect with developers. Ticket buyers will receive a full refund by March 13 and those registered for this year's show will not need to enter a drawing for I/O 2021.
- In similar news, Fox News became the first media company to drop its upfronts plans as a precautionary measure against coronavirus, Ad Age reported. The annual pitch to advertisers and media stakeholders was set for March 24.
The events space continues to be roiled by anxiety over the global spread of deadly coronavirus, which causes the illness COVID-19. Google I/O is a major stage for the company to drum up hype for new products and services. In recent years, Google has used the show to tout offerings like its Pixel line of smartphones, expanded capabilities for its virtual assistant and smart home hardware and initiatives on critical fronts like data privacy.
Nixing I/O falls in line with other recent event cancellations, including Facebook last week dropping plans to host its similar F8 developer conference scheduled for May 5-6. Google earlier this week also axed its Google Cloud Next gathering to be held in San Francisco from April 6-8, citing coronavirus concerns. The tech firm wrote that it "has decided to reimagine" the show, which was originally to be in-person but will be reworked to include free online streaming sessions and interactive experiences.
It's possible that I/O could be tweaked in a similar fashion, but losing a central physical venue could curtail media coverage and an important networking channel. Fox News pulling the plug on its upfronts carries the same downsides, with the additional blow of the presentation being a significant deal-making period for the network.
Upfronts are where TV broadcasters go to convince advertisers to commit to securing large media buys for the months ahead. If more networks drop their upfronts plans due to coronavirus, it could seriously disrupt a TV industry already grappling with negative trends like cord-cutting. The bulk of upfronts are not held until May, per Ad Age, when it's possible the worst of coronavirus will have burned off.
Coronavirus, which has upset supply chains and manufacturing for weeks, has made a clearer impact on the advertising sector in recent days. Zenith, the ad-buying unit owned by Publicis, earlier this week said it would lower its global ad spending forecast from a previous projection of $4.3% growth in December. The New York Times also cut its Q1 ad revenue outlook, attributing lower bookings to the virus in a clear sign that the outbreak could harshly impact publishers.
TV and streaming are areas analysts expect might see some sort of upshot from the virus as more consumers stay at home to avoid getting sick. Continued disruptions to gatherings like the upfronts or, in a worst-case scenario, global media stages like the Tokyo Olympics this summer, could offset that small silver lining.