Hosting Online Workouts Part 3: Broad Technology Platforms

Connected Fitness
The quick summary - these are generic platforms that aren’t set up for fitness.  

They are typically low cost or free, and they can be good places to find followers (e.g. Instagram), but they don’t give a premium fitness experience that people are likely to pay money for - the expectation is it’s free, and then the creator makes money from advertising, referrals or pulling avid followers into a different app or forum.

  • YouTube:  Everyone knows it as the destination video site, supporting live and on demand.  YouTube does have some monetization features, but only when you have vast numbers of followers and views per video.  As a general, broad platform, YouTube doesn’t have any fitness specific features.  You don’t get to change or brand anything.
  • Instagram:  Another giant platform and home to bazillions of fitness influencers who tend to do short video clips or photos on their Instagram accounts, and can also do live videos.  Again, no white labeling or customization, and Instagram influencers make money from sponsored posts for products and referral revenue (like Gymshark).
  • Facebook:  Same as above, live and on demand video clips, no branding or customization.  Facebook gaming has replicated some of the donation / tips features of Twitch so gamers can make money from their live streams.
  • Vimeo:  Another good option for hosting video clips for on demand libraries and live sessions, a lot of studios use it (Zumba did for a while but now seems to have moved back to Zoom).  Pricing is $50 per month for on demand business, and $75 per month if you also need live streaming.  More recently, Vimeo has launched it’s OTT product that adds in white labeling and monetization.  The Starter plan for OTT does include payments (but not white labeled apps etc), and it costs $1 per subscriber per month plus processing fees.  A mid-sized studio is going to get some price “sticker shock” compared to Vimeo’s based pricing of $50 per month (essentially unlimited due to high usage caps).  Vimeo’s marketing and sales team compares OTT to Netflix for fitness - we wrote a blog a while back about why the Netflix of fitness is a bad idea.  Vimeo also has a Growth plan and an Enterprise plan (which are broadly the same the thing, according to the sales rep).  The Growth plan has white labeled apps, but they cost $500 per month PER PLATFORM - so Xbox, Apple TV, iOS, Android, Roku - they are all counted as platforms, and you need to have a least 2 of them (so the real minimum cost is $1000 per month).  There’s no out of the box integration with gym management SaaS like Mindbody today - they do have APIs, but that’s going to take some heavy lifting to make it work (developer), it’s not just plug and play.
  • Zoom:  Zoom has seen huge take up in fitness for live classes, and it’s likely the best generic commercial video chat platform out there in terms of video quality (WhatsApp has been surprising me recently, but it’s just consumer).  There are some significant limitations on Zoom for live fitness workouts, and we wrote a blog about that here.  They haven’t done monetization options yet, there’s no easy way to do white labeled apps but a lot of studios use the Zoom meeting URLs in their class details so it’s one click for their members to get to the class.  Zoom is low cost for what you get - they do fixed monthly pricing, and some studios we know are so high usage that Zoom is likely making a loss each month on them based on real infrastructure usage - but that gets averaged out with the millions of other Zoom customers.
  • Patreon:  A smaller but similar site to YouTube etc, they’re focused on supporting creators.  There’s no branding or custom apps, but it does include monetization.  Again, there are no specific fitness features (like fitness wearables, calories, leaderboards, etc).  Patreon charges between 5% and 12% commission on the money earned by creators on Patreon.
  • Twitch:  Largely focused on video gaming - watching other people play video games (who would ever have guessed that would be a thing?).  They have tried fitness too (with very limited uptake).  There are no specific fitness features, but it does have monetization options with both live and on demand video.  Again, Twitch works on a commission of earned revenue for video gamers on its site, with subscriptions and one off donations.  You can’t get any customization or white labeled apps.
  • Uscreen:  Broadly a generic platform, they also have some (marketing) focus on fitness, similar to the Vimeo OTT offering - I did debate classifying them into my Fitness White Labeled Apps category, but they just don’t have any fitness-specific product features out of the box.  The Base product starts at $49 per month, then jumps to $399 per month for the Amplify plan that gets you live streaming, and white labeled apps are available in the Enterprise plan, which starts at $1,250 per month.  Both of the Base and Amplify plans have an additional charge of 50 cents per month per subscriber, which for the Base plan can quickly eclipse the monthly cost.
  •  Passion is an example of a no code graphical way of building custom apps.  You run through a wizard that lets you drop in different elements and set up payments etc, it’s kind of like Wix but in building a custom mobile app with your own logo (not a website).  They don’t have any fitness specific features, integration with gym management systems, etc - but it’s cost effective way to get to a generic set of functionality in a white labeled app.  Overall, no code and low code platforms (magic wizards that make apps) are disrupting regular software development, but in use cases with very specific feature sets (like interactive fitness), they tend to struggle to compete with “real-coded” experiences.  Pricing is $79 per month for basic and $239 per month for more features including custom branding.
  • Appypie:  Another no code platform for making custom mobile apps - similar to Passion.  Again you go through a wizard, pick images and functionality, and it bundles it up into an app for you.  The big downside is again that it feels very generic and not specific to fitness, so not fitness wearable integration, no gym management software integration, etc.  If you want Android and iOS, it starts at $120 per month.

It is possible to try embedding these services into custom solutions.  FitGrid helps hook Zoom into gym management systems like Mindbody, and MyZone uses Zoom as part of their custom interface.  However:

  • In the end, the experience is not designed for fitness.
  • There’s little flexibility in how the component works if it isn’t designed for being embedded in something else.
  • Embedding these broad platforms into a custom experience will require software developers and have the associated costs that brings.

Justin Marston

Thinker, writer, innovator, runner, Star Wars fan

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