Subscription Commerce

Netflix And Drill: A Content-Based Approach To Subscription Fitness

Whether it’s Netflix or Hulu, binge-worthy content is one key to video streaming services’ success. That’s a mantra digital health and fitness company Sweat.com is taking to heart. In the latest Subscription Commerce Tracker, CEO Tobi Pearce explains how the company he co-founded with Kayla Itsines leverages content developed by sports scientists to keep exercisers motivated and re-subscribing, with the promise of tangible results, gained in the comfort of home.

Content is key in the subscription streaming market, but could it also be key to getting consumers invested in online fitness programs?

Several online, subscription-based fitness businesses have emerged in recent years, working to siphon off traditional gyms’ business by offering programs subscribers can pursue from the comfort of their homes. Some of these were launched by popular fitness celebrities, including Tracy Anderson of The Tracy Anderson Method and Jillian Michaels of NBC’s The Biggest Loser.

One online influencer selling fitness advice through this model is digital fitness guru Kayla Itsines. With 9.6 million Instagram followers, she recently launched her subscription-based venture Sweat.com alongside fellow personal trainer, business partner, fiancé and company CEO Tobi Pearce.

According to Pearce, Sweat.com will focus on delivering several types of fitness content for women. He spoke with PYMNTS about the roots of the fitness venture and the challenges of offering such services to customers using a subscription-based model.

A Netflix-Based Approach to Fitness

Like traditional gyms, digital fitness services have the advantage of offering products through a model for which many consumers have demonstrated they’re willing to pay a monthly fee.

“People have been attending gyms and having gym membership for many years,” Pearce said. “Consumers are already primed to associate the subscription business with a health and fitness experience.”

Gym memberships fall short because they often don’t cover much more than access to a brick-and-mortar facility, he explained. What’s missing is the content that can motivate members to make the most of their subscriptions, and that was the idea behind founding Sweat.com in 2016.

The company takes a Netflix-like approach to offering content. Subscribers can access various fitness and health-related items, including exercises like yoga and Pilates, weekly meal plans and a forum to connect with other members to share questions, pictures and progress.

The goal is to provide content that encourages and motivates members to stay committed and pursue their individual fitness goals, Pearce said. Sweat.com boasts a team of sports scientists who ensure that its programming stands out. The content aims to teach progressive overload, which gradually boosts strength so individuals can work toward more difficult fitness challenges.

“People consume health and fitness content because they want some sort of result,” he added.

Whether the goal is to lose weight or feel stronger, the key for Sweat.com is to deliver achievable, tangible results.

The Fitness Content “Binge” Gap

While Sweat.com might be following Netflix’s example in terms of trying to win subscribers, Pearce acknowledges there is a key difference between the two services: Content or streaming services can be enjoyed at just about any time or place, including on public transportation, during a lunch break or in a home living room. Fitness content, on the other hand, needs to be consumed when a subscriber is in the right frame of mind — not to mention a location in which they feel comfortable exercising.

“Our content is different,” he explained. “You have to be in the right mindset, you have to be motivated, you have to be ready to go and you have to be ready several times per week.”

Also, unlike other streaming content, fitness material isn’t always “binge-worthy.” In other words, subscribers are not as likely to spend hours consuming fitness videos as they are to watch an entire season of “Stranger Things.

“If you’re not motivated and you don’t want to work out, you don’t work out,” Pearce said. “The issue with that is if you’re not working out, you’re not consuming content, so your value of the product drastically decreases.”

Sweat.com is always working to ensure its content will produce results, largely because its team knows it risks losing customers to that lack of motivation.

“We work with our sports scientists internally to help make sure our programming with fitness content is amazing, and it’s not just a matter of putting together some squats and burpees,” he said. “If we can’t add value to somebody with our content, they’re not going to want to pay for it.”

In a crowded, competitive fitness subscription market, the pressure to deliver content that’s engaging, original and produces results will likely only increase. Pearce is hopeful that his venture will reach a large portion of such subscribers.

“My hope is that as many women as possible consume our content to improve their health and well-being,” he said. “We have [already] seen continued growth in Sweat.com’s app subscriber base. App subscriptions grew by approximately 80 percent [year on year] in 2017, and has grown approximately 40 percent this year [since January].”

In other words, the pressure is on to deliver content that gets both newcomers and fitness buffs sticking around long-term — and binging like it’s the latest season of “The Crown.”

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