Global ticketing and events business Eventbrite announced this morning its business outlook will be materially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many have already suspected. Specifically, the company says it's withdrawing its outlook for the first quarter of 2020 as a result of the "growing impact" the outbreak is having on global live events.
The announcement comes at a time when many places around the world have banned large gatherings -- including U.S. states like California, New York and Washington -- making events like meetups, conferences, concerts, and more not just ill-advised but illegal. Local governments are also telling residents to practice social distancing in order to reduce the virus's spread. And on Sunday, the CDC recommended that no gatherings of more than 50 people should take place over the next eight weeks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus across the U.S.
This would include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, and other assemblies -- the sorts of events that flow through Eventbrite's ticketing platform and live events management systems.
"The global pandemic and the impact on the live events industry is unprecedented," said Julia Hartz, Eventbrite’s Chief Executive Officer, in a statement released this morning. "We are working diligently to ensure the well-being of our global workforce and support our customers as they make important decisions about their events through this period of time. The year started off strong across the board, and we are now seeing a material impact to our business from the virus. While the ultimate magnitude of this near-term impact is unclear at this time, we remain confident in our go forward strategy, our market position and the long-term demand for live experiences," she added.
Eventbrite in 2019 had grown its business to reach a community of nearly 1 million creators who organized 4.7 million live events across 180 countries. Its revenue for the year was up 12% on an annual basis to reach $327 million. Going into 2020, Eventbrite expected to expand those numbers.
In February, the company had said it anticipated first-quarter revenue of $84 million to $88 million, and 2020 revenue of $342 million to $359 million. Its business outlook also anticipated 3% to 8% revenue growth for the first quarter of 2020 and 5% to 10% for the full year of 2020, with stronger revenue in the second half of the year.
In addition to the loss of revenue from events that aren't even being planned, the company is likely also impacted by cancellations which lead to chargebacks.
Eventbrite had previously hinted at the novel coronavirus's potential to impact aspects of its business during its Q4 2019 earnings call, noting that 10% of its events on the platform drew attendees from over 100 miles away, where travel restrictions could lead to lower attendance. In addition, 10% of tickets of paid tickets came from events with over 5,000 attendees, where the cancellations of large-scale events could impact the business outlook.
But Eventbrite had also spoken with a sense optimism at the time, adding that many events it serves are smaller, local gatherings and that it had so far seen only a limited number of cancellations.
Of course, much has changed between February and now.
The company did not offer revised projections at this time, as much is still unknown about how long before the outbreak is under control.
Update, 3/17/20: In addition to the changes above, we learned Eventbrite is also pausing (but not terminating) Advanced Payout (APO) during the crisis. Pausing advanced payouts means event creators' funds will be available to refund their ticket purchasers for canceled events. The company believes this is necessary because the guidance from the CDC indicates live events will be impacted in the months ahead.
"As a company whose mission is to bring the world together through live experiences, we have been monitoring the impact of the coronavirus very closely," a spokesperson said. "Conditions continue to evolve, and our top priority remains providing the best support to our global community. This is a very dynamic situation, and any changes we’ve made, or will be making, were carefully considered to help us navigate the future of creators’ events on our platform," they added.