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Streaming big


Live streaming of classes is a hot trend. Tom Walker says clubs should be embracing the opportunity and not seeing it as a threat

Tom Walker, Leisure Media
Fortë specialises in streaming live from ‘sexy’ clubs and revenue sharing
Having celeb members can attract live streaming contracts. PA

From its start as an haphazard selection of user-created videos on Youtube, online fitness has matured to be highly commercialised. Specialist pay-to-view providers, such as Beachbody, Wellbeats and Fitness on Demand, offer impressive virtual fitness experiences and equally impressive user numbers.

The pull of the virtual market has also attracted players such as programming giant Les Mills, which recently launched an on-demand service.

WIDENING THE REACH
As virtual fitness operators look to differentiate their offer, live streaming of classes is emerging as a hot trend, offering consumers the opportunity to engage with other “classmates” and instructors, adding a community aspect to the online fitness experience.

Some online providers, such as the Daily Burn, are introducing live streams as bonus content alongside their on-demand services. Daily Burn recently began streaming once-daily, live classes, targeting beginner-level fitness enthusiasts and aimed to attract them to explore the on-demand offer.

For others, streaming is their main service. US-based livestreamingfitness.com offers 24-hour access to live streaming classes and live chat with trainers and nutritionists, for a monthly fee of US$9.99. We look at some of the leading players…


Peloton

 

William Lynch
 
William Lynch President Peloton

Perhaps the most high-profile entrant to the live online fitness market has been Peloton, the indoor bike manufacturer that’s based its entire business model on streaming live classes to exercise lovers.

The concept behind Peloton is simple: consumers buy the bike, install it at home and start taking part in live classes streamed to a large, 22-inch HD touch screen attached to the bike.

Up to 14 live classes are streamed each day from a studio in New York, which people can also attend in person. Each bike is priced at US$1,995 and users are required to sign up for a US$39 monthly pass to gain access to the classes.

During the live classes, users can compare their performance to other people taking the class in real time, making it addictively competitive and highly motivating. “Peloton is a very interactive, motivating experience,” says Carolyn Tisch Blodgett, Peloton’s senior VP of brand and marketing.

“The instructors can see the riders who are in their classes and identify them by their leaderboard name – they can see everything from the participants’ performance stats to different milestones (ie 100th ride), and give shoutouts to people at home in real time.

“This is an important aspect of the Peloton offering – the fact that you can be at home but participating in a real class where the instructor can actually see and interact with you.”

Peloton’s birth story indicates that investors have confidence in the live streaming model. The company raised US$120m in private capital to enable it to begin the production of the bikes. The first were delivered in 2014 and since then Peloton has grown exponentially. It currently has nearly 500,000 customers – including bike owners, mobile app users, and in-studio riders.

There are signs the business is heading into the facilities market, having just had a further funding injection of US£75m from private equity firm Catterton, whose portfolio also includes studio operators CorePower Yoga, and Pure Barre.

Also hot off the press is the news Peloton has done a deal with Westin Hotels & Resorts, to get commercial-grade versions of its bikes into both hotel fitness studios and hotel rooms at select locations. The move is part of Westin’s push into the wellness travel market.

Peloton Founder and CEO John Foley said: “Members of our passionate rider community have voiced their desire to continue the Peloton experience while travelling – and we’ve listened. Through this partnership, not only can riders continue to get the workout they love while away from home, we can also introduce Peloton to a new audience.”

The company trebled sales from 2015 to 2016 and the partnership with Westin signals a move to expand into new markets, as part of the land grab around fitness tech. The company looks likely to continue to diversify, as president William Lynch told CNBC in a recent interview: “You can imagine other fitness categories and experiences that can be delivered to consumers using the technology and content platform we’ve built”.


"You can imagine other fitness categories and fitness experiences that can be delivered to consumers using the Peloton technology and content platform”

 



Members pay US$1,995 for the bike and US$39/month for live Peloton classes at home

Fortë

 

Lauren Foundos CEO, Fortë
 
Lauren Foundos CEO Fortë

Fortë, described as “Netflix meets Facebook Live, but just for fitness”, is another live streaming provider. Rather than offering classes from a single club, Fortë’s business model is based on providing subscribers exclusive access to a number of boutique studio classes – ranging from boxing, yoga and running to barre and meditation. Fortë installs hardware and software into boutique studios, which enable the classes to be streamed live to Fortë’s platform.

“A subscription gives our customers unlimited access to all live classes from all studios,” says Lauren Foundos, CEO and Founder of Fortë. “You can stream Fortë at home, the gym or even a hotel. Depending on what equipment you have access to – or none at all – you can choose the perfect workout for you.”

Foundos says that Fortë’s USP is to offer live classes from exclusive, trendy clubs and studios – such as Exhale, Centered City Yoga, Aerospace and RIPPED Fitness. “Studios are selected using specific variables,” she says.

“The first is the size – a larger studio brings a larger community, strong brand recognition, and a larger team to work with, ensuring a smoother workflow.

“We also look at the studio’s ‘sexy’ factor. For example, one of my favourite studios to work out at is Aerospace – a boxing studio where you can expect to train like a real fighter. It’s extremely swanky; and if you’re lucky you can spot Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima or actor Hugh Jackman working out.”

The business model is simple. “We revenue share with our partner studios. The studios are paid based on viewership, so those being consumed the most will be earning the most. We’re completely transparent about our costs, and we consider ourselves true partners with clubs. They continue to build great content, and we continue to advance the technology and platform enabling them to give their dedicated online followers the best remote experience possible.”


“We look at the studio’s ‘sexy’ factor – one of my favourites is Aerospace, NYC – if you’re lucky you can spot Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima (below) or actor Hugh Jackman working out” - Lauren Foundos CEO, Fortë

 



Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima

FitCloudConnect

 

Brad Weber
 
Brad Weber CEO FitCloudConnect

While virtual operators such as Peloton might be seen as rivals to gyms, live streaming can also be used by clubs to improve retention and extend the gym experience outside the four walls. One live streaming provider that helps clubs achieve this is US-based FitCloudConnect.

“I was a member of a club but also a frequent traveller,” says FitCloudConnect CEO Brad Weber. “One day I asked myself the question, ‘why, in this age of technology, shouldn't I be able to take my gym with me wherever I go?’. I realised that someone would eventually come up with a solution, so thought why not me?"

Two years after his eureka moment, Weber launched FitCloudConnect with the aim of partnering with fitness clubs and enabling them to offer a mobile version of their gym to members.

The company acts as a third-party and hosts ‘virtual gyms’. Its cloud-based service can be adjusted to each club’s needs.

“Our system provides complete flexibility to the fitness club or wellness provider to set it up how they please,” Weber says. “We use non-proprietary tech so any device – phone, laptop, tablet or desktop – with a browser and internet access can access the live streams.

“The platform is licensed to fitness and wellness providers, who then white-label the technology and offer it to members. Clubs can stream third-party programming, or their own. We’re just a delivery platform for whatever they want to offer.”

FitCloudConnect’s live streams follow a clubs’ class timetable, so consumers can schedule and plan their attendance, pick regular classes and even get to know the instructor. “Having access to the instructor on a regular schedule is a key aspect of member engagement,” Weber says. “Watching videos of celebrity fitness classes doesn’t enable a connection between instructor and member.”

THE WAY FORWARD
Both Weber and Foundos say that rather than seeing live streaming as a threat, clubs should see it as an opportunity: “Clubs have traditionally relied on members visiting their physical club,” says Weber. “This has been the business model and it will continue to be the foundation of the sector. However, with cloud tech there are now numerous companies offering fitness directly.

“Demographics are changing too, with Millennials and an active ageing population living connected lifestyles. Clubs need to embrace digital fitness.”

Fortë’s Foundos agrees. “Live streaming is a huge opportunity,” she says. “It enables clubs to focus on their core business while leveraging technology to build a bigger audience and strengthen their brand awareness globally without the risks involved with taking on expensive bricks and mortar growth.”

Foundos says that having an attractive virtual presence can also improve numbers at the physical club. “There’s evidence that streaming actually drives users into the club,” she says.

“We’ve seen many users visit their favourite streaming studios in person. There’s also another subset of users that are uncomfortable checking out studios on their own, especially when they’ve never done that type of workout before, so allowing them to get confident by doing the workout at home first has also been found to drive club visits.”


“I was a member of a club and a frequent traveller. I asked myself, ‘why shouldn’t I be able to take my gym with me wherever I go?’. Brad Weber CEO, FitCloudConnectI realised someone would come up -with a solution, so why not me?”

 


shutterstock

FitCloudConnect partners with gyms to stream workouts to members wherever they are

Originally published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 6
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