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FTC puts Zuckerberg on the witness stand over Meta’s plan to acquire Within • InNewCL

FTC puts Zuckerberg on the witness stand over Meta’s plan to acquire Within • InNewCL

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Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg commented Tuesday in a hearing on Meta’s acquisition of Within, the VR company that makes the fitness app Supernatural. In July, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued Meta in a bid to block the deal, which the government agency says is anticompetitive.

The hearing comes at a difficult time in Meta’s history. As Meta struggles to achieve its dreams of bringing VR into the mainstream, its company’s stock plummets as the company recovers from laying off 11,000 employees, or 13% of its workforce.

Meta loses billions of dollars each quarter on its virtual reality projects, and investors have expressed concerns about Zuckerberg’s plans as the company’s revenue plummets.

During the seven-day hearing, one of the FTC’s witnesses, economist Hal Singer, said that “fitness is the linchpin of VR ownership.” He went so far as to add that “Mr. keeps Zuckerberg up at night,” reported Law360 from the courtroom (Zuckerberg later testified that he doesn’t actually lose sleep over VR fitness competitors).

The FTC has argued that Within’s Supernatural app is a direct competitor to Beat Saber, a popular VR rhythm game that some people use to train with.

Meta bought Beat Games, the studio behind Beat Saber, in 2019. Even Oculus, the hardware company that powers Meta’s flagship Quest headsets, came on board in a $2 billion acquisition in 2014. Terms of the Beat Games deal were not disclosed, nor were the terms of Meta’s potential purchase of Within.

But while Beat Saber is a fun game that happens to make you sweat, Supernatural was actually built from the ground up as a fitness app, offering daily workouts led by professional trainers and accompanied by popular music.

Led by Lina Khan, the FTC claimed it would violate antitrust laws if Meta’s deal with Within goes through.

“Rather than compete on merit, Meta is trying to buy its way to the top,” John Newman, deputy director of the FTC Bureau of Competition, said in a statement accompanying the lawsuit. “Meta already owns a best-selling virtual reality fitness app, and it had the ability to compete even more closely with Within’s popular Supernatural app. But Meta chose to buy the market position instead of earning it based on merit.”

Mark Zuckerberg says the Peloton/VR partnership “clearly wasn’t a necessity” and was proposed to him because Meta needed to invest $ in 2021, but Meta’s financial situation has changed since then due to the economy and “some specific moves by Apple”. made.”

— Dorothy Atkins (@doratki) December 20, 2022

When the FTC called Zuckerberg to the booth, the government attorneys presented email exchanges from March 2021 — before Meta was rebranded from Facebook — that suggested the idea of ​​a partnership between Beat Saber and Peloton. Zuckerberg said that idea showed promise in 2021 when Meta had some cash to invest in fitness, but ultimately the company decided to buy Within. A partnership between Beat Saber and Peloton would now be impossible, according to Zuckerberg testifiesas Meta is now in a lesser financial position (partly due to changed Apple policies, he said).

Zuckerberg also said fitness in VR is not his priority – rather he is focused on social, gaming and productivity use cases. Meta even just released its Quest Pro, a powerful headset designed specifically for remote work.

Originally, Meta wanted to complete the acquisition of Within by the turn of the year. But in a court filing spotted by Reuters, Meta said it would delay closing the deal until January 31, 2023 pending the court’s decision on the legality of the deal.

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