It might be hard to find a tech company that’s taken a bigger hit in recent months than GoPro.
Last August, GoPro’s stock peaked at $64.74. Yesterday, it closed at $12.48, down more than 80 percent. At that same time, the NASDAQ closed down 9.54 percent; Apple is down 16.87 percent.
Earlier this week, GoPro announced it was cutting 7 percent of its employees. And it also revealed that Zander Lurie had resigned as senior vice president of GoPro Entertainment (as we learned subsequently, to become CEO of SurveyMonkey.)
Lurie’s departure is notable because, as his title suggests, he was charged with helping GoPro solve its most tantalizing challenge: figuring out how to monetize the gargantuan amount of video users shoot with its camera.
While the company is known for its sports-action video cameras, it has spent the last two years feverishly trying to prove that it can be more than that. GoPro believes it can build a new media empire, as well.
For the moment, the millions of hours of video shot by users amount to essentially free advertising and brand building for GoPro. And that’s certainly not insignificant. GoPro says this creates a virtuous circle that drives hardware sales. But GoPro believes there’s gold in those videos, too.
As it stated in its filing to go public back in 2014: “We have generated substantially all of our revenue from the sale of our cameras and accessories…we believe that the growing adoption of our capture devices and the engaging content they enable, position GoPro to become an exciting new media company.”
That same summer, GoPro hired former Microsoft executive and Skype CEO Tony Bates as president, with the mission of “scaling GoPro’s fast-growing media operations.”
GoPro put a channel on Xbox Live and on Virgin Airways screens in a bid to generate ad revenue and sponsorship dollars. Plus, there was some ad revenue from its YouTube channel. But nothing material.
Since then, the company has continued to develop software to make it easier for users to edit their huge volumes of footage and turn it into slick videos. And the company has an internal team that scouts for the best user-generated videos and helps polish them for its own GoPro Pro channel.
During an earnings calls last October, GoPro CEO Nicholas Woodman emphasized that the company was still making big investments in its media business.
He noted that GoPro had become the number one brand channel on YouTube and had passed 1 billion total views. And he highlighted a new program by the company called GoPro Awards that will grant $5 million each year to the best creators of GoPro content.
Woodman also said GoPro Entertainment would announce “new products and services for our customers and new revenue streams for GoPro” in 2016. The company had recently hired executives from HBO and YouTube to work under Lurie as they pursued the media strategy.
“We continue to believe that there is a strong correlation between the quality and quantity of our customer’s shared content and the growth of our business, and with GoPro Entertainment we’re now taking a more aggressive approach to stimulating this aspect of our business,” Woodman told analysts.
But in response to an analyst’s question, GoPro execs declined to say whether the company would see material revenue from these media efforts in 2016. And whatever momentum the company does have in this area, it now must find a replacement for Lurie, who was leading the charge.
In the meantime, executives are still quite excited about coming hardware products, like its Quadcopter drone; the potential for 360-video and virtual reality to drive more sales; and the many international markets it hasn’t yet tapped. But the lack of media revenue also means the company rises and falls with its hardware sales.
And this week, it took another hard hit when GoPro announced that fourth quarter holiday revenue likely came in at $435 million — a big miss from the $520 million projected by Wall Street analysts.
GoPro will officially report earnings on Feb. 3. No doubt, analysts will be looking for any signs that indicate whether GoPro’s ambition of building a media company to help diversify its business is any closer to becoming a reality.