The fitness industry is seeing a huge uptake among Gen Z and Millennials. However, many customers have started replacing physical gym visits with digital video-on-demand and live streaming solutions. The Covid-19 pandemic is accelerating this transition.
These statistics highlight the FVOD (Fitness on Demand) evolution:
- In the US, visits to boutique studios have grown by 121% over the past five years.
- Millennials and Gen Z – dubbed ‘Generation Active’ -now represent 80% of all gym-goers.
- Spending on fitness classes and gyms grew just over 5% last year, but on-demand fitness increased by nearly 59%.
Accedo works in partnership with one of the world’s largest VOD fitness brands, Les Mills International, helping it adapt its products to meet the increasing global demand for video-on-demand fitness solutions.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for these kinds of services and we are seeing a huge uptake in fitness VOD solutions, even in relatively immature markets. So what is next for FVOD?
Live streaming +
During the Covid-19 pandemic, fitness live streams have been the only way to consume live fitness classes and we have seen a number of big fitness companies pivot quickly to include live streaming options.
The current Les Mills Live streaming Facebook group as been open for only 3 months and has already grown to almost 90,000 members with almost all live streams attracting 20,000+ views and many attracting 40k – 100k views.
Fitness live streams have a very different use case to passively consumed live streams as any two-way interactions need to be very easy as the consumer of the content is in the middle of an intense workout.
Accedo is also seeing live streaming as an authentic way for consumers to connect to presenters and build communities and this will continue to augment existing fitness solutions into the future.
For live streams to come into their own, further interactivity needs to be built into the solution so that instructors can assist their membership with form and motivation on a more one to one basis.
Big screen +
The big-screen experience is now a greater focus than ever, as more people turn their living rooms into not only spaces for entertainment but also gym floors, classrooms, and relaxation studios. The ability to watch good quality, hi-resolution video on a large screen is especially important to consumers in a fitness context as there are often different moves demonstrated by different instructors simultaneously.
Many providers are also incorporating a second (mobile or tablet) screen in order to further augment the fitness experience.
Tablet centric UX
There is, of course, many consumers who cannot (or don’t want to) work out in their living rooms. Tablet screens provide a great alternative for these users, enabling the consumption of VOD fitness content in what is perhaps a more workout friendly setting (such as a yoga mat or outdoor patio).
Accedo has just completed a piece of tablet-specific UX work for Les Mills. This ensures that the tablet experience is optimal for the company’s 130,000+ strong team of instructors around the world, providing a picture-in-picture solution within the app that allows instructors to overlay choreography notes with the video content.
Immersive and interactive
One of the most popular Les Mills activities is a cycling class called THE TRIP®. It takes participants down a hyper-real visual cycling track that twists, turns, and (sometimes) flips through all manners of virtual environments. The experience is unique and adds a whole different entertainment angle to fitness, both as a VOD offering and in a physical in-club environment.
This shows that video is not only relevant in an FVOD context. Physical gyms are increasingly seeing a shift from traditional fitness classes to more interactive activities. Many have started to integrate various forms of audiovisual shows to further augment the experience.
Within the Les Mills virtual application, there is an integrated AV Automation engine that can drive incredibly complex AV transitions for different class types. Accedo is also working to integrate custom video backgrounds into the company’s live class experiences.
Fitness apps have a number of contexts that need reliable data feeds in order to support the data requirements of the customers, administrator, and product team.
Accedo is working to surface data to all these contexts simultaneously and providing aggregated data access back to the products via APIs. For example, fitness EPG and class playback data can be pumped to the back-end data platform for the product team to aggregate and analyze. It is also re-surfaced to gym owners and administrators in order to allow them to track class and schedule performance within the application.
In our work with Les Mills, this type of data (consumer-centric and product-centric) has been critical in enabling robust and quick product development decisions.
The internet of fitness things
Along with VOD, fitness solutions require integrated physical and digital solutions. Increasingly, the products that we are developing for Les Mills are Integrated with IoT, Bluetooth, and BLE hardware, collecting metrics on the fly and delivering these back to the consumer’s fitness app ecosystem of choice.
With the introduction of Apple’s Gym Kit, and the fact that more fitness devices are now talking to one another, savvy fitness consumers want all the data they can get to track both their consistency and performance over time. As we continue to see advancements in this field, consumer expectations on their fitness applications are also likely to increase.
Accedo has had the privilege to work with Les Mills for the last four years and we have been integral to most of the company’s digital SVOD products.
These are the key products, currently in the market, that we have developed in partnership with Les Mills:
- Les Mills Virtual (on-premise, on-demand solution for group fitness class delivery).
- Les Mills Virtual Bike (SVOD on an IoT integrated spin cycle).
- Les Mills Releases App (app for Les Mills instructors around the globe to learn and teach fitness classes).
Much like the Les Mills classes, the intensity of this process has helped to stretch and grow our development team’s muscles.
In partnership, we have overcome a wide variety of unique and bespoke product challenges from integrating customized music playlist functionality to dealing with complex IoT integrations.