Shares of Peloton, the fitness equipment company, fell 11.3% Thursday — tumbling to a 19-month low — after a key character in HBO Max’s “Sex and the City” revival, “And Just Like That,” was shown dying of a heart attack after a 45-minute workout on one of the company’s exercise bikes.
The stock continued its slide Friday, down more than 5% in midmorning trading.
According to Peloton, the company had approved the show’s use of the bike as well as the appearance of “Allegra,” a fictional instructor played by real-life Peloton cycling instructor Jess King. However, Peloton did not know that “And Just Like That,” which premiered Dec. 9, would show [SPOILER ALERT] Mr. Big, played by Chris Noth, collapsing and then dying after a Peloton workout. Mr. Big was the on-again-off-again love interest of protagonist Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker). “And just like that — Big died,” Carrie says in the scene.
In response, Peloton pointed to Mr. Big’s unhealthy lifestyle choices as the likely cause of his demise — rather than the fact that his death was precipitated by his use of the company’s exercise bike. Prior to hopping on the Peloton bike, Big is seen puffing on a cigar.
“I’m sure ‘SATC’ fans, like me, are saddened by the news that Mr. Big dies of a heart attack,” cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a member of Peloton’s health and wellness advisory group, said in a statement released by the company. “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.”
In a research note to clients, BMO Capital Markets analysts called out the “And Just Like That” scene, writing, “Although unlikely to impact sales, it does question whether [Peloton] is losing degrees of control over its storytelling, perhaps its greatest achievement to date.”
Peloton was among the “stay-at-home” stocks that experienced a surge during COVID lockdowns, as people stopped going to gyms. Part of the pressure on Peloton’s shares stems from expectations that consumers will be spending less money on home-exercise products and services once coronavirus cases subside.
On Friday, Credit Suisse analyst Kaumil Gajrawala downgraded the stock from “outperform” to “neutral” and cut his 12-month price target on the stock from $112 to $50 per share. In a research note, the analyst cited headwinds for Peloton related to “Higher mobility, a shift in consumer spending, and the return of in-person fitness” after the company experienced “a breakneck” fiscal 2021.
Peloton last broke into the cultural zeitgeist to this extent two years ago, when a holiday ad that many perceived as sexist and elitist was widely satirized on social media.