CES 2022 starts to fall apart as T-Mobile and others bail on in-person conference

Amelia Holowaty Krales

Another year, another gigantic tech tradeshow that looks like it may be falling apart as the COVID-19 pandemic continues — now that T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert, one of the Consumer Electronics Show’s featured speakers, has publicly announced that his company won’t be attending the world’s largest electronics show next month.

I’m sorry we’ll miss seeing everyone at CES this year, but we are prioritizing the safety of our team and other attendees.

Our statement here: https://t.co/WAIkFYMzc7

— Mike Sievert (@MikeSievert) December 22, 2021

T-Mobile, Meta, Twitter, Pinterest, and iHeartRadio have all announced this week that they won’t attend this version of the annual Las Vegas expo in light of a new wave of COVID-19 cases in the US, as have major tech publications including The Verge, CNET, Engadget, TechCrunch, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. But T-Mobile is the first major attendee to bail, with companies like Twitter and even Meta having a far more muted presence at the show in general.

“T-Mobile will continue to serve as a CES sponsor and title sponsor of the DRL Championship Race but the vast majority of our team will not be traveling to Las Vegas,” reads the company’s press release. “Additionally, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert will no longer be offering a keynote in-person or virtually.”

Companies like Samsung, GM, Intel, LG, Panasonic, Sony, Nikon, Canon are the likely tipping point

Other companies that might make a sizable impact if they ditched CES 2022 include Samsung and GM, which also have featured keynotes, and companies that generally rent a lot of prominent space on the show floor, like Intel, LG, Panasonic and Sony. We’re asking major companies now if they’re still committed; a Sony rep suggested to us that the company still plans to attend as of earlier today.

This morning, the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES, stated that it still plans to host an in-person show. “At this point, we’re very much focused on having this show and doing it safely and putting the right protocols in place to ensure that people feel comfortable with it,” a CTA exec told Adweek.

In the recent past, we’ve seen the question of “will they or won’t they cancel due to COVID” stretch on for some time. Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the first big tech show to go on after the COVID-19 pandemic initially hit, held out for quite some time even as partners continued to cancel. Eventually, organizers did have to cancel MWC 2020. Major tech companies ditched the in-person version of MWC 2021 as well. CES 2021, on the other hand, was all virtual.

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