With GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) set to announce the results of its crucial holiday quarter this Thursday, February 5, it's time for investors to start thinking about what to expect from the action camera specialist.
Last quarter, GoPro stock popped 13% after the company not only beat expectations on both its top and bottom lines, but also issued strong guidance for fourth quarter sales of $550 million to $580 million -- the mid-point of which represents year-over-year growth of roughly 55% -- with earnings per share in the range of $0.65 to $0.69. Wall Street is even more optimistic this time around, with analysts' consensus calling for earnings and revenue of $0.70 per share and $580.3 million, respectively.
At the same time, however, shares of GoPro are down nearly 20% over the past month following reports that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) was granted dozens of new patents related its own sports camera system. Whether Apple truly represents a threat to GoPro's core business remains to be seen, but it serves as a great reminder for investors to dig deeper to understand what really drives GoPro's results. Here are three questions I'm keeping in mind headed into Thursday's report.
Did GoPro's new products maintain post-launch momentum?
In fellow Fool David Kretzman's initial 5 and 3 analysis on GoPro, one of the green flags he outlined was whether GoPro could ultimately sell at least 5.25 million camera units in 2014. Whether it reaches that near-term goal depends largely on two new product launches.
For one, this quarter will be the first to see the impact of GoPro's higher-end HERO4 line of cameras, the early October launch of which GoPro CEO Nicholas Woodman called "the most successful roll out in GoPro's history." Because cameras and accessories still generate essentially all of GoPro's revenue, it will bode well for the company's holiday sales and margins if consumers continued to flock for the remainder of Q4 toward the HERO4 Silver and Black Edition devices, which sport premium price points at $399 and $499, respectively.
GoPro also launched a simpler $129 HERO camera aimed at both lowering the adoption barrier to its ecosystem, and further penetrating the entry level market. Success here may not impact revenue and earnings as much as the HERO4 line, but it's no mystery GoPro wants to bring as many users into the fold as possible in its quest to eventually morph into a media company, and monetize the high-quality content its customers generate.
Which leads me to my second question...
Is GoPro a "media" company yet?
To be fair, the obvious answer to this question doesn't need to be "Yes" right now. But I should hope to see continued progress on this front considering GoPro's outsized reliance on the camera hardware market, the eventual saturation and slowing growth of which stands a primary concern for long-term shareholders. Remember, GoPro reclassified itself as a "media" company prior to its IPO last year -- a move that raised plenty of eyebrows (mine included) as it effectively allowed GoPro to command a higher valuation than it otherwise would have as a hardware-only business.
And while GoPro readily admitted in its pre-IPO filings that the media segment wasn't expected to generate material revenue in 2014, ideally this week's report will give us some more clarity on where the segment is headed from here.
That clarity should arrive in multiple forms, including content published and views on YouTube (up 92% and 99%, respectively, on a year-over-year basis last quarter), which both help measure user engagement, as well as details on the ongoing expansion of media partnerships that currently include a team-up with the NHL, a GoPro channel on Virgin America in-flight entertainment, and dedicated channels on both LG smart TVs and Microsoft's Xbox platform.
Any details on the new hardware markets?
Finally, GoPro last quarter more than doubled research and development expenses over the same year-ago period to $42.4 million, so it's obviously hard at work in expanding its repertoire. As a result, I know I'm not alone in wanting more information on where that money's going -- especially if it's dedicated to expanding into new and exciting hardware markets.
Most recently, that includes reports that GoPro is developing a line of consumer drones that could be available sometime this year. Recent research from analysts at Teal Group indicates sales of unmanned aerial vehicles are expected to almost double to $11.5 billion over the next decade, including around $1.6 billion from civil sources. If GoPro can accelerate this market and grab any meaningful share in the process -- and keeping in mind it would also mean additional sales of its flagship cameras -- this could be a solid incremental revenue opportunity.