Thursday, January 14, 2016, 12:30 PM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
In case you missed it, GoPro released disastrous Q4 and full year 2015 earnings estimates late yesterday, acknowledging once and for all that its new HERO4 Session was a holiday season dud, even at its reduced price. In addition, GoPro said it would cut its staff by 7% and that SVP, GoPro Entertainment, Zander Lurie was stepping down after just 13 months (he’s moving to a board position at GoPro and becoming CEO of SurveyMonkey).
All of these moves raise the question about what is to become of GoPro’s much-hyped expansion into the media business.
Ever since going public in July, 2014, GoPro has been talking about the complimentary role media could play alongside its traditional business of selling cameras. Since the very purpose of those cameras was to shoot compelling, gorgeous action sports video which owners’ were highly motivated to share, GoPro had ready-made access to an unlimited source of free videos to tap into. Coupled with a robust YouTube presence (3.6 million subscribers), the explosion of platforms/devices on which to view GoPro’s videos, plus the fuel of social media, the company’s media aspirations were made a ton of sense.
The addition of Lurie, an experienced media executive, appeared to be right move to pull all of this together. Since his appointment, GoPro launched a premium content licensing portal for professionals to license owners’ video and generate income for them (a Getty Images model). GoPro also announced GoPro Channel deals with
PlayStation, Fire TV, Comcast Watchable, Vessel, Roku and LG Smart TV among others (my cursory review of a few of these showed Roku to be the one best developed).
However, building a media business takes time and resources, so the continued health of the traditional camera sales business was pivotal to the media business’s success. And that’s why yesterday’s earnings pre-release and Lurie’s departure cast doubt on what will become of the media business. GoPro didn’t offer any details, and to be sure, with over $500 million of cash and equivalents on its balance sheet, it’s not as if the company is scraping for every last nickel of savings. Another question to consider is whether the company’s depressed stock price (down 90% from its euphoric peak) will attract an acquirer which may not value the media vision.
I’ll be curious to hear more from GoPro about its media business in the 2015 earnings call on February 3rd. I continue to believe GoPro has the beginnings of a very interesting media business, but the company may no longer be in a position to pursue it.