After South by Southwest was cancelled on Friday over concerns about the coronavirus, two of its founders told the Austin Chronicle that the film festival doesn’t have insurance to cover the cancellation.
Nick Barbaro, a co-founder of SXSW who is also the publisher of the Chronicle, told the paper that the festival does not have cancellation insurance relating to a disease outbreak or a policy that would be triggered by the city declaring a local state of disaster.
“We have a lot of insurance (terrorism, injury, property destruction, weather). However, bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics are not covered,” SXSW co-founder and managing director Roland Swenson told the Chronicle.
Insurers routinely exclude communicable disease outbreaks from the cancellation policies that are offered to promoters and artists, but the disease coverage is available for an extra cost as a buy-back — something that most bands have not bothered with, but which many major promoters do take out. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, insurers have stopped offering the disease coverage as a buy-back option.
The film, music and tech festival was scheduled to take place from March 13-22, but Austin mayor Steve Adler and Travis County judge Sarah Eckhardt held a press conference Friday to announce it would be canceled.
“It’s really unfortunate to be canceling South by Southwest. It’s tied to who we are in this city, and I look forward to the next iteration of South by Southwest when it comes,” said Adler.
Festival organizers said in a statement posted on Twitter: “We are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU. For our registrants, clients, and participants we will be in touch as soon as possible and will publish an FAQ. We understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utilize SXSW to accelerate their careers; for the global businesses; and for Austin and the hundreds of small businesses – venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely so heavily on the increased business that SXSW attracts.”