The building blocks of connected fitness

Today, Mux announced a new connected fitness stack of technology in partnership with asensei, Feed.fm, and WEEL. These three companies are leaders in smart coaching, music and wearable sensors, respectively. You can read the full press release here. The platform is built to power the next wave of connected fitness experiences from instructors, startups, and brick-and-mortar fitness companies.

Why fitness?

Consumers are taking control of their own wellness experience. Much like we’ve seen in other media, our expectations are changing. Twenty years ago, 75M viewers regularly tuned in to watch NBC’s Must See TV lineup. Due to audience fragmentation, the most popular show on TV last year brought in just 12.5M viewers. Similarly, wellness/fitness consumer expectations have changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Choice, control, flexibility, and convenience are driving innovation in wellness, leading to a dramatic rise in boutique venue-based fitness businesses like SoulCycle and Barry’s. They cater to more diverse needs - not just through the type of workout, but they also offer a unique and specific vibe that’s driven by both the instructors and aesthetics from the decor and music. Companies like Peloton take this further by seamlessly combining hardware and software products to bring a high-quality experience into the home or on the go. Video, music, and coaching are pillars of these new fitness experiences.

The connected fitness boom

There are at least 100 interesting direct-to-consumer fitness apps and products designed for an experience at home, on the road, or the trail. Some of these, like Peloton, are vertically integrated combinations of hardware and service. The entire experience is controlled from top to bottom - not unlike iOS before the app store. Others, like the Concept2 rower, are completely open platforms that are easy to integrate with third-party apps and hardware. In such a crowded market, companies will differentiate with unique hardware, great customer service, gorgeous content and sensor-driven augmentation such as wellness nudges, calorie tracking, and smart coaching.

MYX app using Mux Video for streaming video

Two recent product launches show where the industry is heading. Both utilize Mux to deliver a superb streaming experience, no matter where you work out.

First, MYX is a vertically integrated product combining hardware and software, but targeted at a much different audience (and pricepoint) than Peloton. It combines an on-bike cycling experience with a diverse set of off-bike exercises including yoga, HIIT, weights and more. It’s a more affordable product than much of the competition and is aimed at holistic wellness. Think calorie and heartrate tracking, rather than competitive leaderboards.

Second, CycleMasters, is a new "BYO-Bike" streaming service that follows the open model I described above. You can pair a subscription to the service with the bike of their choice. This gives the consumer more flexibility in pairing the right combination of hardware to this service.

“The Netflix effect”

We’re spoiled by the largest streaming providers. Viewers now expect video to look great and play flawlessly on any device in any location. Delivering a Netflix-like experience to a mix of devices across wifi and mobile is, frankly, hard. Combine that with where people are working out at home, such as basements and guestrooms far from the wifi signal, and it’s even more complicated. Live streaming is even more challenging.

Mux transcodes and delivers the appropriate video stream based on the attributes of the content itself and the audience. A video of a cycling instructor with lots of motion on a Roku is going to be delivered differently than a talking head coach to a small mobile device over cellular. Mux handles all of the optimization decisioning automatically. Instead of worrying about bitrate ladders and workflow, our partners focus on creating the most impactful content that will differentiate their experience.

Unlike a TV app, video is just one part of a great fitness experience. Coaching and music are essential. Together with asensei, Feed.fm and WEEL, we’ve aligned a great group of partners that can remove months of effort from a product timeline and free up teams to focus on what is going to make their products truly unique. Check us out at CES in January and the Fitness and Active Brands Summit in LA this week.

Lego photo by Flickr user chrish_99