According to Tonal CEO Aly Orady, a studio will open in New York

While hardware is a big part of connected fitness, so are the classes. The high-quality sessions, led by dedicated lecturers, can make — or break — a product, especially when there’s not enough library to justify a device’s subscription. On that front, Tonal announced today that it is opening a studio in New York to expand its offering of live classes and add five new trainers to its lineup.

Tonal is one of the major players in the connected fitness industry with a rating of about $1.6 billion. His $3,000 strength training system is endorsed by several pro athletes, including Maria Sharapova, Mike Tyson and Drew Brees. But if The edge When he first reviewed the device in 2020, the ratings were underwhelming. There was no live content and the class library was a bit thin as strength training benefits from repeating the same workouts over and over again. So it was fascinating to see the company introduce Tonal Live in September. Tonal Live was the company’s answer to the growing demand for live classes – a feature that was also one of Peloton’s celebrity claims. For that reason, the continued expansion is a bold statement at a time when Peloton’s unfolding misfortune has raised questions about the business of a successful connected fitness brand.

The New York studio will be based in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. Until now, Tonals Studios have only been on the west coast. According to Tonal CEO Aly Orady, the move aims to bring more content to users across the country.

“We always knew that the announcement of going live would take us to a New York studio,” Orady said The edge, noting that about a third of Tonal’s membership base is on the East Coast.

Tonal adds five new coaches while another moves to New York from Hollywood.
Image: Tonal

In total, Tonal will now offer 32 live classes and 24 encore classes weekly. Live classes are between 7:00am ET and 8:30pm ET and are available on-demand within 48 hours. All of the new trainers will also be based in New York City and will offer a range of non-weightlifting specialties including HIIT, boxing and yoga. The trainers will also expand beyond Tonal’s existing programs to include content on nutrition, balance and mental health. Unlike Peloton’s studios, which are scheduled to reopen to the public later this summer, Tonal users won’t be able to take classes in person alongside the instructors, according to Orady.

However, running these studios is no easy task. While you only see the instructor on screen, there is a small army of people working behind the scenes. On a recent tour of Peloton’s new Manhattan studio, I saw firsthand how filming a live class required multiple stage hands, rehearsal blockers, a director, and multiple cameras to capture every possible angle. Connected fitness is also an expensive category in general, especially if you’re also making a high-tech proprietary device. For users, that often means expensive monthly subscriptions on top of expensive devices. In the case of Tonal, members have to pay a $49 monthly subscription on top of their $3,000 machine. Much of that money goes back into the production of more content, according to Orady.

“Believe it or not, the content part of our business is the most profitable part,” Orady says, adding that he thinks that’s probably true of most connected fitness brands. A large library with good, varied content is also key to building a following.

While Orady declined to give specific numbers, he said Tonal’s membership base had tripled in the last year. But for fitness tech with hardware, that rapid growth comes with its own problems. Tonal currently has an order backlog of about three weeks, and Orady says customers have been waiting about 14 to 16 weeks at one point.

It’s a story that sounds strikingly similar to Peloton’s at the height of the pandemic. At the time, Peloton was having trouble fulfilling orders, leaving customers frustrated. It then ramped up its production efforts, but didn’t expect demand to slacken as people ventured out of their homes after the vaccine became widely available. That miscalculation left Peloton with too much inventory – and that’s one of the reasons for Peloton’s current financial woes.

“We have never been in this situation. What we’ve seen is continued demand,” Orady says when asked if supply chain issues have impacted Tonal’s business. “I think the sector has certainly been challenged and I think a lot of eyes are on really big public players. But for us, as a smaller private company, different rules apply.”

Tonal’s class choices at launch were much more limited.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

That may be true for now. However, it remains to be seen how Tonal will balance expensive hardware and expensive-to-produce content with increasing competition in space. While the company was early into strength training, other affiliated fitness competitors have begun to expand into the modality. Earlier this year, Peloton released the Guide, a camera-based strength-training system that costs “only” $495 and easily fits into small spaces. Tempo also launched the Move, another $495 smart gym that includes smart dumbbells and iPhone-based tracking to provide form feedback. There’s also Mirror and a small army of Mirror imitators.

Tonal’s decision to invest in a new studio — coupled with Peloton’s recent decisions to experiment with subscription pricing and reopen its studios to the public — shows that two of the biggest players in connected fitness seem to think that Hardware not the future of this area is lies. Content is king.

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