GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) has a ton of new products barreling down the pipeline today. The mountable camera maker is drumming up excitement with things such as its recently announced quadcopter drone, new software solutions that make editing video content easier, and cameras integrated with live high-definition wireless broadcast technology.
Yet, perhaps the most underestimated development for GoPro is its recent acquisition of Kolor, a French virtual reality and spherical media solutions company.
Flying cameras are cool. However, GoPro's purchase of Kolor could mean big things for the company's growing library of user-generated media as well as the overall future of social content.
GoPro is joining the ranks of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), and other tech giants in making a big bet on virtual reality. Once the stuff of science fiction, virtual reality, or VR, is now emerging as one of the biggest trends in tech as it makes its way into the hands of everyday consumers.
VR technology isn't new. In fact, it has been around for more than 60 years. However, the high cost of VR software and hardware components had previously relegated use of the technology to serious gamers or research facilities -- that is, until now.
Thanks to the widespread use of smartphones with high-resolution screens and affordable viewers such as Google's Cardboard project, virtual reality is finally finding a home in mainstream media. While this market is still small, it is generating mainstream attention at a breakneck pace. In fact, sales of VR headsets and hardware are expected to achieve a 99% compound annual growth rate over the next five years, according to new data from BI Intelligence.
Where is the content coming from?
Google and Facebook-owned Oculus are a couple of the key players investing heavily in VR viewers and component hardware today, but what about content creation? That's where GoPro hopes to play a lucrative role. Through its recent purchase of Kolor, GoPro plans to marry Kolor's VR software with its upcoming line of 6-camera -- and even 16-camera -- rigs, thereby making it easier for consumers to capture and share spherical content.
GoPro is already a leader in social content and its reach continues to grow. During its recent first quarter, the company's GoPro Channel on YouTube saw a 93% uptick in videos published, while views climbed 46% year over year. The budding media company deserves additional kudos for having more than 8 million followers on Facebook, 3 million YouTube subscribers, and ranking as one of the top 10 brands on Instagram with over 4.5 million devotees.
This strong social engagement drives brand awareness, which in turn helps GoPro sell loads of cameras. In fact, GoPro kicked off 2015 by delivering its second highest quarterly revenue in the company's history with sales of $363 million, a 54% increase year over year. However, monetizing content is proving a tougher task for the aspiring media company. An insignificant portion of GoPro's revenue today comes from entertainment and media activities.
GoPro is currently working toward monetizing its user-generated content, but for the more immediate future, the company says it is primarily focused on increasing the content it produces. Getting into spherical content and VR media, then, is a natural fit -- and one that could pave the way to additional monetization opportunities for GoPro down the road.
If nothing else, it will be interesting to see what people do with this technology now that it is more readily available to the masses. If this catches on like the traditional social content being shared by GoPro users today, it would play directly into GoPro's longer-term goal of better monetizing its user generated content.
GoPro isn't waiting to see if virtual reality catches on. Instead, the company is getting in on the ground floor and building what could become another way to diversify its top line while also adding fresh immersive content to its growing library. I applaud the company for this and look forward to watching this growth story pan out.