Company / division: GoPro
GoPro today held an event at which it announced two new cameras: the latest in its core Hero line, the Hero6, at $499; and a VR camera called the Fusion, which will sell for $699. The Fusion had been pre-announced back in April ahead of a pilot program which has been running over the last few months, but the suggestion at the time was that this was a camera for professionals, implying a price point in the thousands of dollars. However, what we’ve actually ended up with is something which – if not exactly consumer-grade – is at least within reach for serious hobbyists. The concept is very clever, combining video from two overlapping lenses to create 360° video in a unique way, which can eliminate the pole holding the camera from the shot and make it appear as if it’s floating in front of the subject. But it’s also designed to allow creators to edit videos after the effect, choosing the angle they want from the 5.2k video the camera outputs to create more conventional videos. The Hero6, meanwhile, is a more conventional device, with some predictable upgrades from earlier models, and it’s notable that it maxes out at exactly the same resolutions as the iPhone 8 – 1080p at up to 240 frames per second, and 4K and 60 frames per second – though obviously with a larger camera, sensor, and so on. As a reminder, GoPro has recently returned to growth at a rather lower scale than at its peak, and is losing money as a result, so devices that can provide new revenue streams are critical to its future. The Fusion looks like one of the more unique products it’s launched in recent memory, but at the $699 price it’s not likely to sell in huge numbers, while the Hero6 will be a nice upgrade for some existing owners but not likely by itself to pull new people into the GoPro ecosystem, something the company has anyway been de-emphasizing as a goal.
GoPro beat its revenue guidance for Q1 and grew year on year for the second straight quarter, though it’s still a shadow of its former self, with revenues less than two thirds of what they were two years ago in the quarter, and even less than the equivalent quarter three years ago. Meanwhile, it still hasn’t reduced costs nearly enough to get back to profitability, as its cost of sales was nearly 70% of revenue and its operating expenses accounted for about the same amount, leaving it with a -40% operating margin. That’s actually a slight improvement on a couple of quarters last year, but was much worse than Q4, The fundamental challenge facing GoPro is still that it’s essentially a one-trick pony in a market that has a fairly low ceiling at a time when smartphones and other product categories are beginning to be more meaningful competitors. It’s expanded into drones, but that’s an even more niche category than action cameras, and all its efforts at diversifying into content have failed. It may be able to bring costs down enough over the course of the year to get back to profitability but a return to sustained high growth still seems like a distant prospect.
GoPro Pre-Announces New 360° Camera for Commercial Use (Apr 20, 2017)
GoPro today both reiterated its revenue guidance for Q1 and announced fairly significant cost cuts including layoffs in an attempt to get back to profitability after five straight quarters of net losses. It will eliminate 270 current and planned positions, which equate to roughly 17% of its headcount at the end of Q4, and says full year operating expenses will be $582 million, which compares to $835 million in 2016 and $618 million in 2015, so a fairly significant cut. The fact that it still expects to hit the same revenue numbers makes me wonder what those people were doing that they can be so easily dismissed without impacting revenue growth. Operating expenses are weighted towards R&D and sales and marketing costs, so the cuts will likely hit hardest in those two areas, one of which would likely impact longer term sales while the other would be likelier to hit short term sales. So color me skeptical that GoPro can make these cuts and still hit its revenue numbers for the year, although investors clearly feel differently (the stock is up over 8% after hours).
GoPro actually released some slightly better results for Q4, following a really tough first three quarters of the year, with the first year on year growth since Q3 2015. But revenue was still down on Q4 2014, which remains its best ever quarter, it lost money for the fifth straight quarter, and ASPs are still below previous levels. This is a slight recovery, and it obviously wasn’t helped by the problems with the Karma, but there’s not much evidence yet that GoPro can get back on the trajectory it was on before things started to go wrong after the aborted Session launch. Having cut its headcount by almost 300, it’s lowered its costs a little, but will need to get serious revenue growth going again if it’s to get back to serious profitability.
The Sky Is Falling For GoPro – Forbes (Feb 2, 2017)
The headline here is a pun a bit overblown, but only a bit. GoPro’s Karma drone literally fell out of the skies when it was first launched, and had to be recalled, finally going on sale again this week. This piece digs into the challenges GoPro faced in moving into a totally new hardware category, provides some broader context about how hard the drone market has been for others (see also Parrot), and GoPro’s broader challenges. GoPro was one of three companies I highlighted in a piece just over a year ago about the danger of being a one-trick pony in tech, along with Fitbit and Dropbox. Fitbit and GoPro have indeed been through the ringer since then, to differing degrees, with Fitbit having a really tough Q4, and GoPro struggling ever since its disastrous Session launch. Hardware is hard, and it’s even tougher when you’re in a category with a fairly low ceiling and that’s all you do. GoPro and Fitbit have both discovered that the hard way since I wrote that piece (though Dropbox is actually doing OK, partly by diversifying more effectively than either Fitbit or GoPro have).