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GoPro needs a very good holiday season after a disastrous third quarter

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The company’s sales slide 40 percent from Q3 of 2015

GoPro released its third quarter earnings today, and the company’s sales dropped to $240.5 million from $400 million in 2015, a 40 percent fall. The company’s stock price fell to $11.94 per share at the end of the day’s trading and was halted after hours — it had been as high as $17.15 per share shortly after the announcement of the new Hero 5 cameras and Karma drone back in September. (That was the company’s highest stock price since January.)

During a call with investors, CEO Nick Woodman partially attributed the poor third quarter sales to production problems with Hero 5 and Karma drone, which he says affected their early retail availability.

GoPro, which is known for its durable line of action cameras, is still betting that those new products will sell well this holiday season. The company estimates fourth quarter revenue to be $625 million — an optimistic figure in light of the fact that GoPro has only cracked $400 million of quarterly revenue four times since it went public in 2013. Meanwhile, the company’s stock has been in relative decline since the summer of 2015.

What’s clear now is that GoPro is desperate for a very good holiday season, one that brings the company close to the level of its monster fourth quarter in 2014 — the first holiday season where the Hero 4 cameras were on sale. The holiday season has historically been GoPro’s best quarter, so it’s key that the the company find a way to climb back to those heights to get close to that guidance.

GoPro Karma and stabilizer grip in photos

Pulling that off is all about customers, and whether or not GoPro can find a way to either attract new ones or convince existing ones to upgrade to those new products. The Hero 5 Black is a good camera, and it has some compelling new features like voice control and waterproofing. The Hero 5 Session is more capable than its flailing predecessor. And both new cameras are $100 cheaper at retail than any of the Hero 4 cameras ever were. Those are all good things for new customers who might be considering a GoPro camera for the first time, but are possibly not enough to convince Hero 4 owners to make the switch (or even add a Hero 5 to their collections).

“The thesis for GoPro remains the same: the world is filled with an increasing number of consumers that are interested in capturing and expressing themselves visually and socially,” Woodman said during the investor call. “GoPro is at the epicenter of that, as a storytelling solution that really is a differentiated way to capture and share one’s life in a manner that you simply cannot do with a smartphone or DSLR.”

Meanwhile, the Karma drone offers slick integration with these cameras, and at a competitive price. But that comes at the cost of expected features like collision avoidance and intelligent tracking modes, and GoPro faces stiff competition from category leader DJI.

The card GoPro still holds is its retail presence. No other camera company and few consumer tech companies have the kind of retail presence that GoPro has. You see GoPro products not just at Best Buys and Walmarts, but at places like airport newsstands as well.

If that’s the case, it could buy enough time for GoPro to keep pushing the company’s software efforts. GoPro has spent the last few years building out a significant software team, and this year that started to manifest not just in better (and new) desktop and mobile apps, but also in products like a cloud storage subscription service that gives users access to their footage on basically any device. The company is starting to position itself less as a hardware maker and more of a platform, and growth (or survival) may rely on convincing people of this.

“We’ve now deployed what, in some cases, you could argue is the full GoPro 1.0 vision for the first time,” Woodman said during the investor call. “2017 will be more of an evolutionary year for us versus a revolutionary year.”