GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) has signed quite a few tech and sports partnerships this year. In January, it expanded its 360-degree video partnership with Alphabet's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) YouTube, signed a live-streaming deal with Twitter's (NYSE:TWTR) Periscope, and renewed its partnership with the NHL.
It followed that up in February by signing a patent licensing agreement with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), inking a new golf deal with PGA and Skratch TV, and promoting its cameras at the Grammy Awards.
Let's take a closer look at which of these partnerships actually matter to GoPro, and which are likely just market noise.
The partnerships that will help GoPro
Last year, GoPro launched the Odyssey, a 16-camera rig for producing 360-degree videos on Google's Jump platform. However, the rig's price tag of $15,000 limited its appeal to professional filmmakers and wealthy hobbyists. Its smaller six-camera sibling Omni will likely cost at least $3,000. At CES 2016, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman acknowledged that these solutions were too pricey for mainstream users, and that the company would release a "more casual" 360-degree camera in the near future.
This means that continued support from YouTube, where it has 3.7 million subscribers, might convince more people to buy GoPro devices to produce 360-degree videos. The combination of a stand-alone 360-degree camera and its upcoming Karma drone could also yield impressive 360-degree aerial videos. These videos, when viewed on VR headsets, could give GoPro a foothold in the fledgling virtual reality market.
GoPro's patent licensing partnership with Microsoft for "certain file storage" technologies indicates that GoPro might use Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage service to backup and edit its videos. If that's the case, the company can finally address Woodman's complaint that a GoPro camera was "like an iPod without iTunes." It would also finally help GoPro match the instant backup capabilities which services like Google Drive provide for smartphone users.
The partnerships that won't help GoPro
I'm less optimistic about GoPro's partnership with Periscope, which lets users seamlessly swap between the phone and action camera views in its iOS app. While this sounds like an innovative way to deliver live POV videos to Twitter's timeline, most Periscope users can simply use their smartphone cameras to do the same thing. GoPro's extreme sports users might be thrilled about Periscope integration, but they aren't the "mainstream" users GoPro needs to reach to boost sales.
GoPro's PGA, NHL, and Grammy partnerships also aren't significant, because they're merely brand-building exercises. All three deals use GoPro cameras to film unique up-close perspectives of events, but customers have seen plenty of these POV videos on YouTube before. The problem with GoPro isn't a lack of brand awareness -- it's the stand-alone camera's lack of appeal among mainstream consumers.
The partnerships that GoPro forgot
GoPro seems eager to sign new deals, but it also forgets to follow up on many of its past partnerships. For example, GoPro launched its channels on Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Xbox One over two years ago. That partnership enabled viewers to buy GoPro cameras and accessories through its app from Microsoft's online store, and the two companies would split the sales.
However, GoPro hasn't mentioned that partnership lately or discussed how many devices were actually sold through the channel. GoPro also launched similar apps, which don't sell its products, on Roku, PlayStation, and Amazon, but it's unclear how different those apps are from its YouTube channel. It also failed to explain how these partnerships would fulfill the company's IPO promise to "scale GoPro as a media entity and develop new revenue opportunities."
In 2014, GoPro signed a partnership with BMW and Mini which connected its cameras to their infotainment systems via iPhones. It inked another deal with Toyota to install GoPro mounts in its trucks last year. But once again, GoPro didn't expand these partnerships to disrupt the dedicated dash cam market.
Don't get confused by the noise
GoPro's partnerships with YouTube and Microsoft might seem more promising than its deals with Periscope and the PGA, but they won't solve the company's core problems of slowing sales, market commoditization, and a lack of a meaningful moat. Instead, investors should focus on the company's two big catalysts for the year -- the Karma drone and the Hero 5 -- which will both face substantial challenges from entrenched rivals.
Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Leo Sun owns shares of Amazon.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Amazon.com, GoPro, and Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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