And just like that, Peloton shares tank after fatal cameo in Sex and the City reboot
After running up in early days of pandemic, Peloton shares have been sliding for most of 2021
Shares in at-home exercise company Peloton fell to their lowest level in 19 months on Friday after a character in the Sex and the City reboot died after using one of the company's devices in the pilot episode.
Peloton closed at $38.51 a share on the Nasdaq Friday, down by almost six per cent, after the airing of the first episode of the new HBO series titled And Just Like That... The show follows the adventures of main character Carrie Bradshaw and her friends in New York City.
In the episode, the character known as Mr. Big, played by Chris Noth, suffers a heart attack and dies after his 1,000th workout. The event shocked longtime fans of the show, and seemingly gave investors in the company a shock, too, for making a link between the company's eponymous exercise bike and the possibility of a heart attack.
The show apparently got permission from the company for the product placement, but the company didn't know the context of the appearance.
In a statement Friday, the company tried to deflect from the story, noting that the character's use of the device "may have even helped delay his cardiac event."
"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," the company said.
"These lifestyle choices and perhaps even his family history, which often is a significant factor, were the likely cause of his death."
Peloton shares rode a wave of popularity earlier in the pandemic, as gyms closed and more people turned to the company that offers at-home interactive fitness classes. From a low of about $20 a share in March 2020, Peloton shares rose as high as $170 this time a year ago.
But the shares steadily slumped through most of 2021 as signs mounted that the company can't maintain that momentum.
The pace of new memberships slowed and, in August, the company cut prices of its bikes and treadmills, implying soft demand. The company has about two million paying customers today, about twice what it had before COVID-19.
It's not even the company's first big stock dive in the pandemic, as it drew a slew of bad press in the spring of 2021 when some of its machines were recalled on safety concerns, after one child died and dozens of people were injured by them.
At least one investment analyst pinned Friday's sell-off on the episode.
BMO analyst Simeon Siegel said while the fatal cameo is "unlikely to impact sales, it does question whether Peloton is losing degrees of control over its storytelling, perhaps its greatest achievement to date."
"By all accounts, this was a phenomenal product placement [and] I think they were probably very excited about it — up until the end," Siegel told CBC News.
While ultimately unlikely to upset any existing customers or convince new ones to not sign up, "it's more indicative of where the company has gone versus where it was during the pandemic," said Siegel, who has a $45 target price on the company's shares.
With files from the CBC's Reid Southwick