After a cancellation in 2020 and rescheduling what is normally a spring show to the fall this year, many in the industry were looking forward to a face-to-face version of the NAB Show next month in Las Vegas. But a variety of factors caused the National Association of Broadcaster to pull the plug on the massive convention in a surprise announcement on Wednesday.

“Multiple factors went into this difficult decision, including the sentiments of the NAB Show community, health and safety concerns, and our desire to deliver a convention that helps our exhibitors, partners and attendees prosper,” NAB Senior VP of Communications Ann Marie Cumming told Inside Radio. Her statement suggests the latest results of the trade group’s online surveys – or actual registration numbers – may have shown a lower comfort level for the show in light of elevated COVID case counts.

In addition, two major exhibitors recently withdrew from the convention over health concerns. Sony Electronics, typically one of the show’s largest exhibitors, and Canon, another exhibitor, announced they had pulled out last week. Both companies also said they were withdrawing from Infocomm, which is scheduled for Oct. 23-29 in Orlando.

“While these events are an important forum to reach our customers and introduce new products, this is a choice we made to ensure we’re putting our employees’ and our partners’ health and well-being first,” Sony Pro Division President Theresa Alesso said last week in a statement. Avid, Adobe and Blackmagic Design also withdrew from the NAB Show.

The 2019 event reported attendance of roughly 91,000 and has traditionally been the NAB’s largest source of funding. Uncertainty had been building for weeks in the Hollywood community that typically attends the NAB Show, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The trade publication noted that NAB is promoting “more than 600” exhibitors, where in 2019 it advertised 1,600.

Ultimately, Cumming said, the group “concluded that it was not in the best interest of the NAB Show community to continue with an in-person convention. We are now focusing our attention on the 2022 show in April,” she said.

The cancellation includes co-located events, the Radio Show and Sales and Management Television Exchange, which were also scheduled to take place next month in Las Vegas. It isn’t yet clear whether the Radio Show will be co-located with the NAB Show in Las Vegas in April 2022 or return as a standalone conference in the fall. “We have been focused on this year’s Radio Show and will now be exploring various options for 2022,” Cumming said. “We’ll share more information soon.”

Wednesday’s official announcement from Chris Brown, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Global Connections and Events at NAB, cited “unexpected and insurmountable challenges for our global community” from the COVID-19 pandemic and surge of the Delta variant.

Originally planned for April 11-14, the 2021 NAB Show was rescheduled to Oct. 9-13. The spring 2020 show was cancelled in March 2020 on the same day world health officials declared the coronavirus a global pandemic.

“While we are disappointed that we will not be together again in person next month, we look forward to converging at the 2022 NAB Show, April 23-27, 2022, to reignite our passion for our business and focus on a bright future ahead,” Brown said. That will mark the first time in three years the NAB Show will be held in person.

NAB says it plans to announce virtual options for accessing select 2021 NAB Show content through NAB Amplify as it did in April of this year.

The announcement comes after the NAB spent the last year working to bring the industry together safely in person. Last month the trade group said it would require all participants to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. An early September update outlined the steps attendees, exhibitors and presenters would have taken to validate that they have been vaccinated.