GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) has been transitioning from being a pure hardware company to one focused on original content production and distribution. In February the GoPro app, which shows user-generated footage taken on GoPro cameras, launched on Roku and in March it surpassed one million downloads on the Xbox platform.
In an effort to further catalyze user-driven content the company began a new initiative, "GoPro Awards." According to a company press release, the program "will grant up to $5 million annually to creators of content that emotionally engages, amazes, or excites — from extreme to mainstream moments, professional to consumer."
The GoPro app and its YouTube channel have already given the company a much stronger ecosystem than most hardware companies ever achieve. The next step is the production of original content that can create a loyal viewership base and bring home awards. Two recent hires should help greatly in achieving these goals.
Original content production
The company hired Hulu's Charlotte Koh to head up a newly created department, features and series. In an interview with Variety, Koh alluded to the fact that the company will initially focus on unscripted productions, because "making something unscripted is obviously faster," but that over time scripted content is "within the realm of possibility."
As we continue to move toward a world with niche tastes and an abundance of a la carte streaming options, original content will prove to be more and more valuable. This is one way GoPro can continue its move away from being a pure hardware company. Not all of these ideas will pan out, and there will certainly be growing pains, but I love what this hire says about the direction the company is heading in. What may start with action-sports documentaries could develop into a significant part of GoPro's business.
Sports: from HBO to GoPro
GoPro also plucked an HBO Sports veteran, Bill McCullough, to serve as executive producer for the company's team-sports and motor-sports channels. The company already has an impressive presence on YouTube and recently launched its premium content licensing portal, which allows users to upload and sell their content to advertisers, filmmakers, and the like.
McCullough worked at HBO for seven years and has won 11 Emmy Awards. He is adamant that this career move doesn't mean he will be out of the hunt for awards. Talking to Variety, he said, "I'm looking forward to those days when GoPro is at the Emmys." Award success, while not necessarily an immediate driver of revenue or earnings growth, can legitimize a brand.
One Emmy Down ... more to come?
GoPro has, in fact, already taken home an Emmy trophy. It was a Technology and Engineering Award, and not for an original production.
GoPro's track to its first major award nod represents a nice microcosm for the company as a whole. It started out building great hardware and winning technology awards, but it has aspirations to produce original content and someday be recognized for that. These two hires and its general desire to evolve into a full-fledged media company make me very excited to be a shareholder for years to come.