Organizers of the annual CES tech conference in Las Vegas are putting on a brave face as Omicron spreads, insisting the show will go on — but some big names already are pulling out, On The Money has learned.
Graphics chip giant Nvidia, JPMorgan and PepsiCo all confirmed to On The Money on Tuesday that they’re bowing out of in-person CES events.
“Nvidia canceling on CES is like Moderna canceling at a healthcare conference,” one person close to the conference told On The Money, underlining the darkening outlook after the exhibitor canceled.
Meta, Twitter, Pinterest and iHeartMedia also have said they won’t attend.
Still, organizers of the annual Las Vegas electronics showcase say the event is going to happen — in-person — Jan. 5 to 8. The last time the event happened in-person was in January 2020, just before the pandemic’s worst months; the 2021 in-person show was canceled.
The event typically draws more than 100,000 people to conference centers and hotels across Sin City, as gadget-makers aim to make deals with each other and use elaborate booths to grab media attention.
They’ll have a harder time doing that this year, with journalists from CNN, The Verge, Forbes, MarketWatch, Engadget, TechCrunch and The New York Times’ Wirecutter all saying this week that they’re skipping the event due to coronavirus concerns.
“If you have a big booth, you have that so journalists write about it,” tech publicist Ed Zitron told On The Money. “At this point, what are they selling their booth owners?”
“I think the show floor is going to be a very strange ghost town,” Zitron added. “They should’ve canceled already and every day they don’t cancel makes it more expensive and annoying.”
Zitron’s firm, which represents tech startups, typically rents out a penthouse at the Venetian Resort for a party with tacos and an open bar. He had a reservation for this year, but canceled on Tuesday because of COVID worries — and because of a expected lack of attendees, he said.
CES said in a statement to The Post that thousands of participants still were attending. “We are confident that attendees and exhibitors will have a socially distanced, but worthwhile and productive event,” CES said.
Organizers are requiring proof of vaccination for attendees and plan to pass out free rapid coronavirus tests that they “recommend” attendees use before entering events.
Some would-be attendees say the optional testing plan doesn’t go far enough given the current onslaught of coronavirus cases among vaccinated people.
“I read the health-and-safety protocol and went, Nope,” Boost Mobile founder and director Peter Adderton told On The Money. “The whole reason you go to CES is to meet with people. If you can’t do that safely, there’s no reason to go.”
Behind the scenes, executives at the Consumer Technology Association — which organizes CES — are launching a charm offensive to keep attendees on board, sending out reassurances that they’re monitoring the coronavirus closely.
Google, Roku, T-Mobile and the Federal Communications Commission are all still planning to attend in person, according to spokespeople.
Still, LightShed Partners analyst Rich Greenfield told On The Money that attending the conference isn’t worth the risk.
“There are just so many people with Covid,” he said. “Who wants to get stuck quarantining in Vegas?”