GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) announced better-than-expected third-quarter 2019 results on Thursday after the markets closed, leaving shares up around 6% on Friday as investors cheered the news.

But make no mistake: Though there were bright spots in the report, this wasn't the quarter GoPro originally envisioned. Before we go there, let's take a closer look at GoPro's headline numbers relative to the same year-ago period:

Metric

Q3 2019

Q3 2018

Growth

Revenue

$131.2 million

$285.9 million

(54.1%)

GAAP net income (loss)

($74.8 million)

($27.1 million)

N/A

GAAP earnings (loss) per share

($0.51)

($0.19)

N/A

Data source: GoPro. GAAP = generally accepted accounting principles.

Excluding one-time items like stock-based compensation and restructuring expenses, GoPro's (non-GAAP) net loss was a more modest $61 million, or $0.42 per share.

And yes, GoPro's revenue really did plunge more than 50% this quarter. But that was largely a consequence of a previously disclosed late-stage production delay for its HERO8 Black camera that pushed a significant amount of expected sales from Q3 into Q4 -- an announcement that caused shares of GoPro to plunge more than 20% in a single day early last month. Even after Friday's pop, GoPro stock still hasn't fully recovered from that drop.

GoPro's HERO8 Black camera.

IMAGE SOURCE: GOPRO

Still, there's no denying GoPro outperformed this quarter relative to the soft expectations it provided last month. Guidance called for revenue to be slightly lower in the range of $123 million to $127 million, translating to a wider adjusted net loss of $75 million to $65 million.

As such, during the subsequent conference call, management reiterated its full-year outlook for revenue to increase 6% to 9%, or to a range of $1.215 billion to $1.25 billion. They further called for GAAP net income in 2019 to range from breakeven to a $0.10 per-share loss, with adjusted earnings per share of $0.30 to $0.40 -- the midpoint of which stands well above consensus estimates for adjusted earnings of $0.32 per share.

A make-or-break season for GoPro?

Whether GoPro can live up to that guidance now depends on its ability to execute well in the crucial holiday season.

Underlying GoPro's 2019 outlook are targets for fourth-quarter revenue of $550 million to $585 million -- or just over 50% year-over-year growth at the midpoint -- with GAAP profits of $0.65 to $0.75 per share and adjusted earnings of $0.74 to $0.84 per share. For what it's worth, and though we generally don't pay close attention to Wall Street's demands, most analysts were modeling adjusted earnings near the high end of that range on roughly the same revenue.

So how will GoPro achieve these targets? 

"HERO8 Black and MAX are generating the highest positive social sentiment metrics of any new GoPro and are setting record unit sales for new cameras at GoPro.com," Woodman elaborated. "Both products appear to be unquestionable hits with consumers and we're optimistic about their impact on our business going forward."

It will also help, of course, if GoPro is able to sustain the momentum of its $4.99-per-month GoPro Plus service, which saw its paying subscriber base soar 66% year over year this quarter to exceed 305,000. But it's no mystery that GoPro's near-term success hedges primarily on the holiday traction of its latest and greatest HERO8 and MAX camera models.

The real challenge will be whether GoPro can not only deliver as promised in the crucial holiday season, but also translate the benefits of its fourth-quarter profitability to longer-term success as it works to return to sustained growth. Until investors see more tangible proof to this end, I suspect GoPro stock will have a difficult time revisiting even its 2019 highs.