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Peloton Just Made a Killer Deal With UnitedHealth

By Jeremy Bowman, Jason Hall, and Trevor Jennewine – Sep 27, 2021 at 8:00AM

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The connected fitness leader just got even stronger.

If you're a UnitedHealth (UNH 0.57%) member who likes to work out, you're in luck. The insurance giant just announced a new benefit for members: a free Peloton (PTON -3.44%) digital subscription. The news is a win not only for UnitedHealth members but also for Peloton as it further entrenches its leadership in digital fitness and pulls in a whole new prospective customer base.

In this Sept. 1 episode of The Five, Fool contributors Jeremy Bowman, Jason Hall, and Trevor Jennewine break down what it means for Peloton and where the broader connected fitness industry is going.

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Let's get our next question here. Guys, as I was telling you on the Slack, I got an email from UnitedHealthcare today. It's our insurance company, health insurance, and they told me I had a new insurance benefit. It's kind of exciting, and I think I might sign up for it. I get the Peloton App, the $13-a-month version. Not the version with the live stuff for your bike, since I don't have a Peloton bike. I get it for free. They're going to pay for it for me. I think that's pretty cool. For owners of a Peloton who are UnitedHealthcare insurance customers, they can take that $13 a month and they can apply it as a credit toward their All Access memberships. That's pretty neat.

So you just got me thinking about this connected fitness. It's funny, because I think about the economics of the gym industry. It's flipped upside down. They want 100% of people to pay and keep paying, but they only want 20% of them to actually be actively involved with coming to the gym, because their operating models are built that way.

But I wanted to hear from you guys and your thoughts here. Trevor, if you want to kick us off, do you think connected fitness is really -- is this a big opportunity for investors still? If you do, which companies are set to be the biggest winners?

Trevor Jennewine: I do like connected fitness, and I think the more that they can make these deals with insurance companies, I think the more they can slide it into the consumer lifestyle, make it a part of their health insurance, for instance. I think that enhances the value proposition.

As far as where the big winners are, I honestly like Peloton. I just saw some news today about Apple (AAPL -2.85%) adding blood pressure and temperature to some of its connected devices, so there's Apple there, not necessarily just a pure-play connected fitness, but a giant tech company. So Peloton, Apple.

I do think there are some headwinds, and I think some of these companies might have gotten a boost from the pandemic. I mentioned earlier I go to the gym regularly, and I think there's a lot you can do at a gym that you can't really do on a Peloton bike at your house. So I do think there's a market for connected fitness, but I don't think it's maybe as big as some people tend to believe sometimes. I don't think if you lower the prices of Peloton bike, you're going to empty out the gym and get everybody working out at home. I think there's some people that like to run outside and get their cardio like that. I think there's some people that like to use weights in the gym. But as a supplemental or an additional piece of home equipment, I like Peloton, and I wish I had that option through my insurance.

Hall: Yeah, it's kind of cool. I'm interested if we keep it, though, because we're moving and the insurance is different in Massachusetts than California. [laughs] So I don't even know if it will still be around for me in 45 days. We'll have to wait and see.

Jeremy, what do you think about this? Actually, I know a little bit about what you think about this space, but I just want to see you eat some crow.

Jeremy Bowman: [laughs] Yeah. Well, I think I mentioned before, I have been a Peloton skeptic. I think obviously they've done well, and connected fitness is one of those trends, remote work and cloud computing, that we've seen, a lot of things take off during the pandemic. And I think after what we've seen over the last year, it is going to be a lasting trend. It's pretty cool that you can do almost any workout class remotely. You don't have to go to a gym or yoga studio or whatever people were doing before the pandemic.

I do think as far as Peloton itself, I think this is a really cool deal with UnitedHealthcare, and it's great benefit as a member, and it's great for Peloton, and it's cool that UnitedHealthcare is doing that for its members. I think Peloton itself -- exercise tends to be faddish, and there's a lot of exercise trends that come and go. CrossFit was one of them a few years ago, so I don't know. Peloton was so buzzy at the height of the pandemic, and I know the recent quarter was still strong, but I think that momentum will eventually fade.

There's a lot of other companies doing connected fitness stuff. Trevor mentioned Apple, there's Nike, Lululemon, so I think other companies are going to step up their products here. I don't think Peloton is going to go away or anything, but I think maybe this amazing growth story and customer retention and all that stuff, I don't know if that will stay around forever.

I also wonder just in this deal with UnitedHealth, how much they're paying for the Peloton app, because I think based on the way insurance companies do business, they're able to negotiate a $1,000 bill down to, like, $100 or something like that. So I think even if it's almost, maybe it shouldn't be free, but it's great promotional stuff and brand awareness and all that for Peloton outside of the money, but just the details itself.

Hall: Yeah, I think that's a key thing. We were talking on "Beat and Raise," I made a point to spend a couple of minutes talking about incremental margins and the value for these kind of businesses of that extra little bit of revenue. And I think that's a key piece there, Jeremy. It's almost like whatever UnitedHealth is paying Peloton, it's probably profitable for them to do it.

Bowman: But it's still free, because it is basically free for Peloton.

Hall: Right. Yeah, they're not really adding a bunch of expense to bring that on, and if it leads somebody to buy a Peloton, a bike or a treader or any of their products and step up that all-access pass, all of a sudden, the economics get even better. It's like the best marketing in the world, where an insurance company is giving you a little money to give something to somebody for free that could lead to more sales. I think it is definitely a savvy move.

Trevor Jennewine has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple, Lululemon Athletica, Nike, and Peloton Interactive. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group and recommends the following options: long March 2023 $120 calls on Apple and short March 2023 $130 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Stocks Mentioned

Peloton Interactive Stock Quote
Peloton Interactive
PTON
$12.47 (-3.44%) $0.45
Apple Stock Quote
Apple
AAPL
$142.45 (-2.85%) $-4.18
UnitedHealth Group Stock Quote
UnitedHealth Group
UNH
$538.11 (0.57%) $3.07

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