In an interview, Fitbit CEO and founder James Park revealed that his firm’s premium health and fitness service has over 500,000 paying subscribers.
“We thought demand for what we’re doing would just plummet,” he told The Wall Street Journal, referring to how COVID-19 has impacted his business. “But then we started to see that people were looking to Fitbits as a way, along with other things like Peloton, to stay home, quarantine and stay healthy. We saw incredible growth in our digital business or premium business. We reached 500,000 paid subscribers. It has been a surprise for us that ironically business is doing better than we anticipated due to the pandemic.”
Other interesting tidbits from this interview include:
Park still expects the Google acquisition of Fitbit to conclude in 2020. “We’re in active dialogue with the European Commission and the U.S. Justice Department, and we still expect the transaction to close sometime in 2020,” he said. “Google has incredible resources. The combination of the two companies has the potential to have a profound impact on the course of health care.”
He believes the Fitbit brand will survive the acquisition. “Branding is important and one of the things behind Google as they’ve done a great job of nurturing brands where it makes sense,” he said. “Nest lives on. YouTube, as you know, is a very long-lived brand. I feel that the Fitbit brand has strong resonance and meaning for tens of millions of people around the world. And as long as we can continue to be relevant and deliver a lot of value for users, I think the Fitbit brand will continue.”
Park says that Google will respect user privacy. “We’ve always had a policy where we never sold and shared data with third parties, and only share data with your opt-in consent,” he noted. “We also created a Bill of Rights with insurers and companies that enshrines a lot of these data protections, and we’ve refused to work with institutions that don’t abide by that Bill of Rights. Google recognizes the importance of making sure that this data is held securely and that privacy protections are put in place. If you can’t ensure the privacy of the data, no one’s going to want to use your devices. I think everyone’s interest is well aligned, and Google has also publicly stated that this data is never going to be used for the purposes of their search advertising.”
He is “cautiously optimistic” that Fitbit devices will be able to detect COVID-19. Following a landmark study in which his firm’s devices successfully detected COVID-19 in users before they showed symptoms, Parks said that such a capability would have “a profound impact on the ability for public health and affect the transmission of the disease … I hate to say confidently, but at a high level. It’s going to be backed by a lot of data through trials that are being conducted pretty rigorously. The FDA in general has been receptive obviously to very data-driven proposals.”
Fitbit Premium costs $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year. You can learn more about this optional service for Fitbit owners here.
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