Like a 47-year-old comedic improviser still trying to make it on Saturday Night Live, time is running out for GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) to become a video star. The top dog in wearable cameras is hungry to fulfill its pre-IPO dream of evolving into a full-fledged media distributor, and Variety is reporting that the fallen market darling is making a big push into original content.
GoPro plans to roll out 32 short-form shows in the coming months. Some of the shows in production include the travel-based Beyond Places, family oriented This Is Gonna Be Fun, and music-fueled Off the Record. Other ambitious productions include a series about motorcycle cops training in New York and one that follows the iconic Real Madrid soccer club around.
The shows will debut later this year and in early 2017. Will this be digitally delivered content or are there grander plans for an actual cable channel? GoPro's millennial appeal would suggest that going the cheaper online route for distribution will be enough. The concern here is if it's too late.
Don't just Zander, do something
GoPro hired Zander Lurie in late 2014 to head up a division that would be tasked with the creation, curation, and distribution of GoPro user-generated content. He had been a senior exec at CNET, CBS (NASDAQ:VIAC), and Guggenheim Digital Media before being tapped for the "make it rain" role at GoPro.
The hire came just a few months after GoPro's hot IPO, and everything seemed to be falling into place -- until folks stopped buying GoPro cameras. By the time holiday sales came around last year consumers had shifted their big-ticket gifting attention to drones and hoverboards. Improving smartphone cameras also made it less necessary for mainstream audiences to need a GoPro.
Plunging sales and resulting layoffs at GoPro may have been enough to scare off Lurie, and it was easy to see why GoPro's dreams of being a media mogul were starting to come undone like a poorly secured Hero 4 camera on a downhill skater. GoPro was already making some headway to grow beyond a hardware company under Lurie's brief tenure. It was selling licensed GoPro-shot video and striking brand partnerships around its filmed content. It was snapping up video-editing companies, and building out a cloud-based storage platform that could one day be the clearinghouse for its user base.
Lurie may be gone, but this is all still possible. Late last year GoPro introduced an awards program, giving away as much as $5,000 for quality user photo and video submissions. It's too late to catch up to YouTube as a hub for incentivizing the more prolific GoPro vloggers (that's video bloggers, for those not in the know), but GoPro rightfully understands that monetization will be a big driver in getting its camera owners to lean on whatever it dreams up as a distribution platform.
After seeing its shares plunge 71% last year, GoPro stock is down another 19% so far in 2016. It has bounced back nicely off its February lows, but its success from here on out will be decided by the Hero 5 camera and Karma drone that will be rolling out later this year. The new short-form shows won't hurt, and all it takes is a few of them to go viral to make the brand-polishing move worth it. It better not blow this chance. You get as many takes as you have film in Hollywood, but investors aren't patient directors.