Peloton’s annual Homecoming event is for the fans. This is where the fitness tech company teases new products, as well as new features and content. It’s also a chance for fans to take live lessons from their favorite instructors and attend special panel discussions. The big tease this year is that Peloton has officially confirmed the arrival of a connected rower.
Peloton’s reveal is more of a teaser and official confirmation than anything. We don’t know the specs or when it will launch – just that it’s “coming soon”. In terms of design, the rower itself seems to have a similar vibe to the Peloton Tread – sleek, with a minimalist profile and a screen for watching classes. Rowing machine rumors have been circulating since 2018, when Bloomberg reported that Peloton intended to launch it in 2020. Obviously, 2020 came and went, and no rowers were to be seen.
Prior to Peloton’s Homecoming announcement, I was able to speak with co-founder and chief product officer Tom Cortese about the decision, as well as Peloton’s other Homecoming announcements.
“We’re entering the rowing category, which is long overdue and feels like the worst kept secret on Earth, so might as well talk about it,” Cortese told me on Zoom.
For a home gym, treadmills and bikes make sense. In the world of fitness technology, many equipment manufacturers cater to runners and cyclists because they are popular activities. But rowing has traditionally been a bit more niche. Part of that is the space it takes up in your home, and most people don’t grow rowing. You know how to run instinctively and learning to ride a bike is often a good childhood memory. There is a distinct form that comes with rowing that you wouldn’t know about unless someone taught you. And although rowers have been available in gyms for decades, the sport it’s based on has a reputation for being elite and exclusive.
That said, indoor rowing has become increasingly popular over the past few years, thanks to in-store and online fitness classes. Hydrow has made a name for itself as the “Peloton of Rowers”, and there are currently many other Hydrow-esque services. Apple has included rowing as a category in Fitness Plus. OrangeTheory is another trendy boutique fitness studio that offers plenty of rowing.
“In a relatively short amount of time on the rower, like a 10 or 15 minute class, you can actually engage 86 percent of the muscles in your body,” Cortese explains. “The problem with rowing is that it’s a bit inaccessible because the average person like me looks at a rower and I don’t know what to do.”
This video has a little rower tease. Blink and you might miss it.
The idea is that Peloton wants to leverage its technology, its popular instructor paddock, and its hardware design sensibilities to demystify rowing. It also fits into another Peloton initiative to expand its strength training options. Cortese noted that Peloton will steadily increase its strength training content. At Homecoming, the company announced a new four-week program led by trainer Tunde Oyeneyin focusing on arms and shoulders which will initially be a Peloton Guide exclusive. The Guide, a camera-based system that lets you check your form on a TV as you follow along with your instructors, is Peloton’s first foray into strength training equipment — and the rowing machine, a combination of cardio and strength. , will be his second.
This is all in line with Peloton’s overall approach over the years. However, sticking to a game plan is unlikely to appease nervous investors fixated on Peloton’s share price, especially since the hardware itself is often what analysts scrutinize. under the microscope.
Earlier this week, the company posted bigger-than-expected losses to its third-quarter earnings. During the call, new CEO Barry McCarthy repeatedly told analysts at major banks that while Peloton was good at hardware, “being good at hardware isn’t good enough.” And while McCarthy is still new to the job, he’s been consistent since taking the lead in subscriptions at the center of his strategy. Chief Financial Officer Jill Woodworth explained that its overstocked inventory was costing the company. But, again, Peloton is releasing new hardware.
When asked how the rower fits into Peloton’s new software-focused strategy, Cortese said the company “has always been and always will be a subscription business.” This in turn means that the fanbase is satisfied with an ever-growing library of content and features. The goal is to hook users into the community and ensure that they never want to leave the Peloton ecosystem.
So far, the company has done remarkably well in this area. Quarter over quarter, the company’s monthly churn rate – the percentage of Peloton users who cancel their subscription – remains below one percent. During this last quarter, even with an increase in subscription cancellations following the announcement of a price increase, the churn rate actually improved to 0.75%. The question is whether that will change.
“Our business motivation is to keep you as a subscriber forever,” says Cortese. “We believe there is so much we can do daily and weekly to continue to change and evolve the bike experience, the tread experience and now the rowing experience. “
This explains the strategy behind many novelties announced at Homecoming. For example, Cortese says the company has seen an increasing number of users taking yoga classes, and lo and behold, Peloton announces that it’s adding a second installment to its Yoga series “The Approach.” To appeal to hardcore bike users, Peloton previously launched its Power Zone training program. At Homecoming, this too is getting a new eight-week program called “Peak Your Power Zones”.
Peloton also facilitates interaction between current users. Members can now schedule workouts directly from the bike with a new “Invite Friends” feature. Likewise, it also introduces a “Just workout” feature – meaning any unordered activity can be logged in the Peloton app. Meanwhile, the company is adding TalkBack – an accessibility feature to help blind and visually impaired users – to Tread. The feature talks to those users through the Tread UI. This is a smart move, as multiple studies have shown that this community is massively underserved by current exercise equipment and fitness facilities. According to the American Foundation for the Blind, ideally treadmills would have tactile surfaces, Braille labels for controls and voice output. So while Peloton can do more in the future under these guidelines, it’s at least a step in the right direction. It also makes Peloton a more palatable option for those communities and throws down the gauntlet for Peloton’s army of copycats to do the same.
But perhaps the one thing that will excite die-hard Peloton fans the most is that the company is reopening its Peloton Studios. The studios are where Peloton films and streams its content, and before the pandemic, it was a place many Peloton fans visiting New York came to and hang out with their favorite instructors. The original studio was located on 23rd Street, but has since moved to a shiny new facility near Hudson Yards. Due to the pandemic, the new Studio was never opened to the public. There are no timing details, however.
All of these ads are a way to reach new users, keep those users engaged with the Peloton platform – and give them less and less of a reason to leave. And if you’re a Peloton fan, I’d say they’re pretty effective. But loyalty has never been an issue for Peloton. The problem is the disconnect between a company that makes an industry-leading product and its stock price.
Asked about the negative press and endless speculation about Peloton’s future, Cortese was unfazed.
“It’s a blow. It’s a moment in time. As long as we stay focused on what we do well and continue to drive real value in a space where there’s a real need for a real consumer, I’m good to go for another 10 years.
If Peloton stays long, then yes. It’s a blow in the same way that Apple had its “lost years”. There is a way forward for the company if its restructuring plan is successful – although it is unlikely to return to its peak pandemic valuation any time soon. On the earnings call, Peloton’s management team spoke about pursuing its restructuring goals through 2023 and possibly 2024. But as long as fans get through the ups and downs, Peloton can carry on. to row.