I've talked about GoPro's (GPRO -1.40%) problems many times before. Many of its existing users aren't upgrading their cameras, cheaper competitors are saturating the market, and better smartphone cameras are reducing the need for stand-alone cameras.
I'm still bearish on GoPro, which fell from nearly $90 in late 2014 to roughly $8 today, but I also think it's important to recognize its growth opportunities. Let's take a look at four key catalysts that might help GoPro gain ground over the next few quarters.
1. The Fusion 360-degree camera
GoPro recently introduced the Fusion, a 360-degree panoramic camera for capturing spherical photos and videos. The device captures videos at a 5.2k resolution at 30 fps, and captures both 360-degree and fixed perspective content. It also uses a new "OverCapture" feature to "punch out" non-spherical photos and videos from its spherical content.
GoPro is only offering the Fusion in a pilot program, and it won't be officially launched until the end of the year. That delay could hurt GoPro, since rival cameras like Samsung's Gear 360 and Garmin's (GRMN -0.88%) VIRB 360 are already on sale.
Nonetheless, the Fusion represents an interesting way for GoPro to differentiate its products from traditional action cameras and smartphones. It could also help GoPro capitalize on the potential growth of the virtual reality market.
2. Social media growth opportunities
In the past, GoPro was often chastised for claiming that its YouTube channel would become the foundation of a revenue-generating "media business." Nonetheless, social media channels, especially Facebook's (META -0.45%) Instagram, remain vital to GoPro's growth.
In a recent article in Vogue by Celeste Moure, GoPro is cited as a favorite sharing tool for popular Instagram users. Moure also calls GoPro's Quik editing software, which turns photos and videos into a movie, a "favorite with Instagrammers."
That's probably why GoPro's Instagram followers surged 44% annually to 12.7 million last quarter -- led by a 160% jump in international followers. Facebook video views of GoPro content jumped 22% annually to 35 million. That continued strength in social media could support GoPro's growth and reduce its dependence on pricier channels of traditional advertising.
3. A better follow-up to the Karma
GoPro's Karma drone, which was pegged to be a major catalyst this year, didn't impress consumers or investors. Its pre-holiday launch last year was botched by an embarrassing recall, while DJI Innovations launched two superior drones -- the Mavic Pro and Spark.
If GoPro's successor to the Karma addresses its shortcomings against both drones -- in price, power efficiency, size, and features -- it might make a dent in DJI's market. But that could be tough, since DJI has much more experience in drones.
4. A potential deal with Qualcomm
GoPro believes that its future lies in cameras that seamlessly stream live video (like on Periscope) or constantly back up content to its premium cloud service, GoPro Plus. So it's surprising that GoPro hasn't launched any stand-alone 4G cameras that aren't tethered to smartphones.
That's likely because Ambarella (AMBA 0.17%), which supplies its image processing SoCs, doesn't produce baseband modems. If GoPro wants to add that feature, it would need to buy separate modems, likely from Qualcomm (QCOM -2.50%).
That's why Qualcomm started selling its Snapdragon SoCs (which include an application processor, image processor, and modem) to action camera and drone makers. Recent rumors indicate that GoPro could use a Qualcomm SoC in its upcoming cameras -- which may lower its production costs while adding 4G connectivity. If that happens, GoPro could differentiate its cameras from the competition while expanding its margins.
The key takeaways
I'm not saying that any of these things will become major catalysts for GoPro. After all, its management has a long history of dropping the ball instead of catching it. However, the bears should be aware that GoPro stock is fundamentally cheap at 0.9 times sales, and that 30% of shares were being shorted as of June 26.
This means that almost any good news could cause the stock to jump and spark a short squeeze -- so its downside should be limited from current levels. For now, GoPro is an interesting stock to watch, but I think it's still far too risky to be on either side of this trade.