The Talent Wars: Lights, Camera, Fitness

Peloton

Star instructors and celebrity investors, battles over music rights and massive production studios — the line between connected fitness and media is blurring.

Peloton, star-making machine. Leading the charge, Peloton has kept busy building state-of-the-art production studios, controlling content distribution, and broadcasting classes—essentially performances starring its cast of instructors—that attract up to 20,000 riders. Peloton even pays musicians more per stream than Spotify.

Following suit, connected fitness brands are taking a page out of Peloton’s playbook:

  • Tonal, which launched live classes in September, is looking to build a production studio in NYC.
  • Around the same time, Xponential Fitness debuted its new tech-driven production studio, XSTUDIO, to complement an AR experience for its at-home users.
  • Echelon broke ground in March on a 10,000-square-foot Miami studio.

Even Apple’s diving in. The tech giant spotlighted its Apple Fitness+ trainers during its iPhone 13 debut and built a gleaming 23,000-square-foot production studio in Santa Monica. Jay Blahnik, Apple’s VP of fitness technologies, explained the investment:

“We want these workouts to be magical. We’re creating a piece of art, a piece of inspiration, a piece of motivation.” 

Star power. The key to that magic? The instructors. Peloton fan favorite Cody Rigsby has nearly a million followers on Instagram and moonlights on Dancing with the Stars. And Hollywood is looking to take on a supporting role — over the past few years, connected fitness has seen a flood of VIP endorsement.

  • Hydrow’s list of A-list backers includes Lizzo, Justin Timberlake, and Kevin Hart.
  • Echelon tapped Pitbull, as both an investor and collaborator, to help it compete in the “exer-tainment” wars.
  • Renowned talent agency CAA has gotten in the mix too, joining in with Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and more on FightCamp’s $90M funding round in June.

Speaking of CAA, former talent agents from the company founded connected fitness brand obé, which partners with networks and streaming services to create themed fitness classes, complete with Broadway-trained instructors.

Looking ahead: Connected fitness companies are turning into bonafide production houses, relying on celebrity instructors to retain and engage users. As the talent wars intensify, brands that empower fitness creators, create digital communities, and leverage interactive content will find success beyond individual stars.