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GoPro Goes on a Virtual-Reality Odyssey

By Jamal Carnette, CFA - Sep 11, 2015 at 1:00PM

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What's cooler than selling one camera? Selling 16 cameras, that's what.

GoPro's newest product is 16 cameras on a circular rig. Meet the Odyssey. Source: GoPro/Google.

For those following action-camera maker GoPro (GPRO 4.64%), it's been quite a wild ride. After a successful IPO last July, which saw the stock jump 30% over its $24-per-share price, the stock went on a tear to close higher than $90 per share briefly. More recently, however, shares of the company have struggled and are down over 40% year to date.

August was particularly harsh for the company, as a warning from key component supplier Ambarella spooked investors as to GoPro's growth potential. By month's end, the company lost 25% of its value amid concerns the wearable-camera market is slowing. And while fellow writer Steve Symington points out that's not necessarily the case, as a shift in seasonality appears to be the culprit, that didn't stop Wall Street from selling off the company.

Perhaps the reason the company sold off so harshly in the wake of Ambarella's report is that it plays into the bearish thesis many have on the company: GoPro is an un-diversified company with a somewhat limited total addressable market. Its line of Hero cameras is selling well, but action cameras may be a niche market. However, it seems GoPro is continuing to find new and novel ways to get its cameras into customers' hands.

Meet the Odyssey ... again
Today, GoPro announced that it will begin to accept orders for the Odyssey. The device, which can best be described as a circular rig with 16 Hero4 cameras, is set up for 360-degree immersive filming. If the device sounds somewhat familiar, it's because the product was unveiled in May during Google's I/O developer conference in conjunction with Google's (GOOG 4.16%) (GOOGL 4.20%) Jump virtual-reality ecosystem, complete with editing and hosting of VR content.

While right now virtual reality isn't a large consumer market, there's a fierce battle to shape the nascent format. Right now, the most visual participant appears to be Facebook, which entered into the market with its bolt-on acquisition of Oculus VR and its signature virtual-reality headsets.

However, this is interesting for GoPro and Google. While headsets tend to be discussed more, content will be needed as well. It seems that Google wants to own the ecosystem. The Odyssey came from Google's geometry, uses Google's back-end software to compile and assemble the content, and will be available to view the content on YouTube using Google's low-tech cardboard virtual-reality viewer or a compliant VR headset. In a way, the relationship seems eerily reminiscent of Google Android's relationship with Samsung -- Google controls the software and ecosystem while Samsung makes the actual device.

Sixteen is greater than one
For GoPro, this is a great way to address the total addressable market issue. Where its traditional market consists of athletes and enthusiasts using one camera, with an unknown upgrade cycle, this device needs a massive 16 cameras to work and will be used by professionals more receptive to upgrades and picture quality. And for that reason, the entire setup costs a massive $15,000 and is limited to professional photographers only at this juncture.

The downside is, of course, that this market is even more of a niche market than GoPro's current one, and sales will be negligible in the short term. However, it appears the Odyssey is a low-risk way for GoPro to increase demand with an eye on a potentially huge future market. This isn't a game changer, but it is good news for investors that the company is looking for new, exciting ways to move product. 

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Stocks Mentioned

GoPro, Inc. Stock Quote
GoPro, Inc.
$6.99 (4.64%) $0.31
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
$2,246.33 (4.20%) $90.48
Meta Platforms, Inc. Stock Quote
Meta Platforms, Inc.
$195.13 (1.83%) $3.50
Ambarella, Inc. Stock Quote
Ambarella, Inc.
$88.10 (9.92%) $7.95
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
$2,255.98 (4.16%) $90.06

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