ADOTAS – While most gyms have ESPN or some other sports network blaring on that one TV in the corner, I admit to Netpulse CEO Bryan Arp that I tend to sneakily change the station to a “Law & Order” rerun while getting in my 30 minutes on the treadmill.
He laughs — apparently “Law & Order” is one of the most popular programs to watch on Netpulse’s fitness center media platform. He’s demonstrating the platform’s features for me at the Wall Street New York Sports Club (NYSC). The company has signed a long-term agreement to be the exclusive entertainment provider for Town Sports International, owner of the New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Boston Sports Clubs brands.
There are more than 100 screens at the Wall Street NYSC hooked up to various exercise equipment including treadmills and elliptical machines. Netpulse will be rolling out the platform to 158 locations on the East Coast in the next few years, 109 in the New York designated market area alone.
Along with movie trailers and music videos, on-demand classic TV has proven quite popular, and my inner nerd rears his pimply head when I notice there are “Star Trek” (original series!) episodes on the platform.
It’s mindless, but not too mindless — while entertaining, “Law & Order” makes for interesting (if sometimes overly blunt) social commentary due to its “ripped from the headlines” aesthetic. The original “Star Trek” works on a similar principal — the standoff between the Klingons and the Federation bears more than a passing resemblance to the Cold War.
Workout time “is a 30 minute period when people are looking to consume media,” Arp says. “It’s universally understood that people are bored out of their minds when they work out.”
And it’s an interesting, pretty affluent demographic we’re talking about — active people that have enough cash lying around to afford a gym membership. Talk about your ideal captive audiences — Bryan notes that people in gyms don’t socialize as it’s not that fun to chat when your chugging up an incline.
“It’s also a time when you’re likely to explore different things from advertisers,” he continues. “When you’re on the web, you have a purpose — checking your email, etc. But when you’re on our product, you’re doing almost anything but thinking about working out.”
The touch-screen platform makes digital signage truly interactive. All the info on the screen is HTML-based and to some extent the platform is a web browser. Users can further edit their preferences online and out of the gym.
Netpulse uses IAB standards for its ad units, with 65 trackable ad products available — beyond banner ads, advertisers can engage the athletic consumer with pre-roll and post-roll video and more. Users can be targeted based on their signup information as well as the media they consume.
The platform also keeps a record of a user’s workout (see you later, unwieldy gym network), making it a handy tool for the gym enthusiast. Later in the spring Netpulse said it will connect to social media — gym buffs will be able to tweet their latest workout stats. The next step will be to add a transactional feature — a user who enjoys a music video will be able to buy and download it to his or her iPod while completing a stair-climbing regimen.
Arp was kind enough to walk me through many of the platforms features: