Among the panels at South by Southwest Interactive, the Mark Cuban vs. Aver Ronen debate abruptly ended when a fire alarm rang throughout the entire Austin Convention Center late Friday afternoon.
After convention-goers shuffled down emergency staircases for 15 minutes, the festival’s official Twitter account pronounced, “We are not on fire. Thank you for your concern. It was a false alarm. I am still here tweeting for you.” Even so, many attendees left the conference while Cuban was attempting to make a point about his venture, HDNet vs. Ronen’s media interface, Boxee.
In this content war of online vs. broadcast video content, Cuban was defending HDNet and former businesses like Broadcast.com against the low capital Boxee. As the fire alarm rang, Cuban and Ronen looked on as attendees left. When asked if he likes being interrupted Cuban replied, “I don’t care. It just comes with the territory.”
In the interim, some attendees took the opportunity to quiz Cuban about playing rugby and other subjects. As the questions continued, a volunteer told everyone to leave the building.
As attendees left amid the clanking of beer bottles hitting the trash, one disgruntled participant said, “I have a front row seat for a panel with Mark Cuban in it. I am never going to get this again. I’m going home.”
Once the panel resumed, with fewer watching, Cuban admitted he had tried Boxee on various platforms. But the frank talk and gum smacking continued in a debate that seems to have no end. While the panel appropriately titled “Pay TV vs. Internet – The Battle for your TV” continued, the SXSW Twitter account stated, “All clear! Come on back kids! Sorry for the false alarm. We'll continue panels and run a little late today.”