The punches keep coming for Peloton. Its treadmills were recalled after a series of injuries and a child’s death, people are returning to gyms, and now — spoiler alert — its stock is down 11 percent overnight after its iconic Bike was a key part of a major character’s death in the inaugural episode of And Just Like That..., HBO Max’s new Sex and the City reboot. However, Peloton is now saying its product isn’t to blame — it’s extravagant living.
Spoiler warning: the following discusses a major plot point from the first episode of And Just Like That...
The brouhaha centers around the death of Mr. Big (Chris Noth) following a 45-minute Peloton class led by fictional instructor Allegra (who is portrayed by actual Peloton instructor Jess King). Peloton has been quick to downplay the role its popular stationary bike played in Big’s demise. Instead, the company is pointing the finger at the character’s lifestyle choices.
“I’m sure ‘SATC’ fans, like me, are saddened by the news that Mr. Big dies of a heart attack. Mr. Big lived what many would call an extravagant lifestyle — including cocktails, cigars, and big steaks — and was at serious risk as he had a previous cardiac event in Season 6. These lifestyle choices and perhaps even his family history, which often is a significant factor, were the likely cause of his death. Riding his Peloton Bike may have even helped delay his cardiac event,” Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist who also serves on Peloton’s health and wellness advisory council, said in a statement.
“More than 80 percent of all cardiac-related deaths are preventable through lifestyle, diet and exercise modifications. And while 25 percent of heart attacks each year are in patients who already had one (like Mr. Big), even then they are very, very treatable,” Steinbaum said. She also noted that Peloton helps track heart rate — though you need a compatible heart rate monitor for that — to help riders exercise safely. Or, it’s sort of Mr. Big’s own fault.
Never mind the fact that Mr. Big is fictional — the product placement seemed odd given the jarring storyline. Companies generally have stipulations regarding how their products appear. Apple is notorious for not allowing TV and movie villains to use their products. However, Peloton told BuzzFeed News that while it had approved King’s appearance in the show, it wasn’t aware of the overall plotline for confidentiality reasons. Peloton spokesperson Denise Kelly also clarified that HBO had bought its own Peloton Bike.
While SATC fans are reeling over Big’s death, and Peloton will likely spend another holiday season as meme fodder, it’s not yet clear how much of an impact a fictional character’s death will have on the company’s long-term fortunes. The company was one of the biggest success stories of the pandemic, but that perception has begun to shift now that gyms are reopening. Despite slashing the cost of its original Bike, Peloton reported less-than-stellar earnings in November. Peloton’s stock plummeted 35 percent following the announcement, and the company also froze hiring across all its departments.
That said, if there’s one thing about Peloton fans, it’s that they’re incredibly loyal. The company boasts a 92 percent yearly retention rate. A child’s death, several injuries, and a recall were not enough to convince Tread Plus owners to return their machines. It’s unlikely that in the long run, a fictional character’s death will be what does Peloton in. However, the next few months will hint at what Peloton’s place is in the future of connected fitness — and whether it’s still the leader of the pack.