Peloton doesn’t care about your TV spoilers, and neither does social media

Chris Noth in ‘And Just Like That…’
Chris Noth in ‘And Just Like That…’
Image: Warner Media
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Warning: Spoilers ahead for, well, many things.

Peloton has set a new record for closing the unofficial grace period film and TV fans generally get before they’re expected to be up to date on their favorite content, making them spoiler-proof. The new spoiler-free window, according to Peloton, is now only three days. 

It started with the release of the latest installment of the Sex and the City series called And Just Like That…, which debuted on HBO Max Dec. 9. In the first episode, show regular Mr. Big (actor Chris Noth), dies after an intense workout on his Peloton bike. It’s a major moment in the series that closes a long-followed chapter in the main character’s life. However, the involvement of the pandemic’s lockdown fitness staple in the fictional plot may have caused real-world damage to Peloton’s stock. 

On Dec. 8, before the show aired, the beleaguered stock climbed almost 10%, to $46 a share by the time the market closed. The fateful episode was released on the streaming service at 3am ET the next morning and when the market opened, the stock fell 13%, a move seemingly explained by the negative framing of the television episode. In response, Peloton rushed out a video advertisement featuring Noth, along with the popular Peloton trainer seen in the episode, in a short scene narrated by Ryan Reynolds in his now familiar—and marketing-friendly—Deadpool satire voice.

Reynolds’ voice ends the commercial by reminding viewers of the health benefits of cycling, after which he says “He’s alive,” no spoiler alert included. 

Defeating and celebrating spoiler culture is now big business

Peloton’s stock has since rebounded a bit, suggesting the clever marketing that was produced in just 24 hours may have been effective. But for millions of Sex and the City fans who haven’t seen the episode yet, the fitness company’s damage control ruined one of the biggest plot points in the series’ history. And while this may be one of the most rapid spoilers to ever hit social media, it appears to be part of a larger trend. 

If viewers somehow didn’t manage to carve out time to watch the Succession finale on Sunday, no worries, today there are countless brilliant memes on Twitter summarizing what viewers who haven’t seen the episode missed.

In 2019, Marvel producers were so concerned about online spoilers for Avengers: Endgame that they had the film’s stars appear in a video directly appealing to fans to not spoil the film for others.

The hashtag accompanying the video, #DontSpoilTheEndgame, was both an effective marketing tool and a strong reminder about fan etiquette. But the spoilers came anyway. This has led to a number of tech-enabled methods for avoiding spoilers, including installing spoiler defeating web browser plug-ins to muting certain words and hashtags on Twitter. 

The secret to avoiding spoilers is to accept defeat

During the height of the Game of Thrones era, in which spoilers were at their height on social media, TiVo conducted a survey that found that 71% of viewers actively avoided spoilers, and 67% specifically stayed away from social media to guard against having their favorite shows and movies ruined by early plot reveals. But the new social media-powered culture of spoilers may not be as bad as it seems.

A 2011 study (pdf) conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego found that spoilers may enhance stories for many audiences by allowing them to “organize developments, anticipate the implications of events, and resolve ambiguities that occur in the course of reading.” The study went on to posit that, “It is possible that spoilers enhance enjoyment by actually increasing tension.”

Nevertheless, on an instinctual level, most fans do their best to avoid spoilers, as exampled by the flurry of entreaties on Twitter this week asking anyone who has seen Spider-Man: No Way Home early, which premiers Dec. 17 for most, to please, just don’t spoil it.