Welcome to the Fitt Insider Weekly Debrief. Every weekend, we compile the top stories impacting the business of fitness and wellness from the past week.
Here’s what you need to know for October 31, 2021:
- Facebook parent co. Meta acquires Supernatural
- Apple Fitness+ gets social with group workouts
- Hinge Health cashes in on digital physical therapy
Doubling down on Oculus for exercise, Meta acquired Within, maker of subscription-based VR fitness app Supernatural. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Combining exercise and entertainment, Supernatural transports users to another world for guided workouts and meditations. Like other fitness platforms, Supernatural has prioritized hit music, striking licensing deals with Warner and Universal.
More recently, the company launched boxing workouts. Plus, the app also connects with Apple Watches to track real-time heart rate and health stats.
Immersive workouts. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently unveiled Meta, the new parent company of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus — redefining the social network as a “metaverse company.”
Part of the announcement, Zuckerberg paid special attention to virtual reality fitness:
“Think about it like Peloton. You have a subscription, the device is VR, you put on a headset, and you’re in an amazing environment doing a boxing class with an instructor… it’s quickly expanding beyond games.”
Zuckerberg continued, “I think we’re going to see a lot more unique experiences emerging around fitness that takes advantage of the full immersion in interactive training.” He specifically pointed to apps like Supernatural, FitXR, and Rezzil’s Player 22.
The company also plans to release Active Pack, a set of fitness-focused accessories for Oculus Quest 2 designed to turn the VR headset into a piece of gym equipment.
Moving forward, by acquiring Within, fitness will likely become central to the Oculus platform.
- Supernatural saw subscriptions more than double during the pandemic.
- FitXR, a “virtual fitness club” accessible via Oculus, saw sales increase 535% YoY in Q4 2020.
- A growing number of companies are leaning into gaming, including Peloton, Zwift, Ergatta, Playpulse, Aviron, Capti, Quell, Fyter, and Pantheon, among many others.
Further, as esports and traditional sports converge, virtual athletics are on the rise.
Punchline: As Supernatural CEO Chris Milk sees it, “Fitness is the killer use case for VR.” With Meta acquiring Milk’s company Within, that statement could end up being true.
Fitness+ with Friends
Apple Fitness+ launched a new feature, enabling group workouts and meditation sessions with up to 32 other people.
Powered by FaceTime’s SharePlay, Fitness+ workouts stream completely in sync for every user, allowing for real-time communication with other participants. Gamifying the experience, workout metrics and progress toward closing Activity rings are also displayed. When someone closes their Activity rings, everyone in the session is notified.
Expanding the service, Fitness+ is entering 15 new countries, adding guided meditations, and releasing Pilates workouts.
Zooming out: Last year, when Apple made its foray into fitness, we wrote:
“Far from a Peloton killer, Apple’s workout subscription isn’t the end game; it’s a warning shot. Armed with deep pockets and walled gardens, Big Tech wants a piece of the fitness pie. As the balance of power shifts, the battle for content, talent, distribution, and users has only just begun.”
One year on, Apple is pushing further into Peloton’s territory, putting every digital fitness brand on notice. The interesting part? While connected equipment is a focus of home fitness, Apple continues to prioritize workout formats that require little or no equipment.
Social+ Fitness. According to McKinsey research, “The most successful fitness apps offer community.” The report noted that community-focused fitness apps experience 4x growth over tracking- and training-centric apps.
Buuut… Digital workouts are still dominated by one-to-one or one-to-many models where the instructor or coach defines the experience.
Punchline: Taking notice, with the addition of group workouts, Fitness+ hopes to set itself apart from virtual experiences that fail to capture the essence of exercising in person.
Curing Chronic Pain
Movement health is a trillion-dollar market.
Cashing in, digital physical therapy provider Hinge Health raised $600M in new funding, valuing the company at $6.2B.
What it is: Combining computer vision and motion sensors with exercise therapy and movement assessments, Hinge Health combats all stages of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, from prevention to post-surgery.
Why it matters: As we detailed in Issue No. 134: The Business of Movement Health, chronic pain and injuries stemming from MSK conditions are on the rise.
- 1.71B people suffer from MSK conditions worldwide.
- More than 50% of US adults report back or joint pain.
- MSK costs in the US, including care and productivity, exceed $980B/year.
A drain on healthcare costs, productivity, and quality of life, MSK conditions are expensive and largely preventable. With that, digital health companies like Hinge Health, Kaia Health, SWORD Health, and Amazon’s Movement Health are taking aim at the problem.
Digital PT. Having raised more than $1B to date, including a $300M funding round earlier in 2021, Hinge Health has been expanding its Digital MSK Clinic.
- Acquired wearable maker Enso, deploying technology for noninvasive and nonaddictive pain relief
- Launched HingeConnect, integrating users’ electronic health records
- Doubled its customer base, largely health insurers and employers, surpassing 575 companies
Looking ahead: Daniel Perez, Hinge Health’s co-founder and CEO, said the company will be active on the M&A front, entertaining an IPO “when we want to.”