For better or worse, GoPro Inc (NASDAQ:GPRO) just turned over the last card it had to play. That is, on Tuesday, the company officially began selling its Fusion camera, allowing users — amateurs — to film 360-degree video.
The price isn’t bad. At $699.99 each, any enthusiast who really wants one can have one. It’s almost infinitely cheaper than the Omni camera it put on the market in early 2016. Though it was also a 360-degree camera, at $5,000 for a complete setup, it was hardly a mass market device. This one’s clearly more marketable.
Faithful owners of GPRO stock who think the Fusion is going to turn things around for the struggling camera company should think again. There’s another reason to fear the worst.
The Price Isn’t GoPro’s Problem
I’ve warned current and would-be owners of GPRO stock about this before, but in light of the recent launch of the Fusion camera, it merits repeating. GoPro doesn’t have a pricing problem. It has a demand problem (although that problem is underscored by a pricing challenge).
The reality is many people can appreciate that GoPro makes the best action cameras on the market. Unfortunately for owners of GPRO stock, many people don’t actually want to own one.
That’s not to say there’s not a market for such technologies. Professionals and amateurs alike have been buying them, and will continue to do so. This was always a niche market though. And that’s a problem because investors, largely prodded by analysts, were viewing GoPro’s action cameras in the same light as the iPhone, from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL).
Case in point? JMP Securities Managing Director Alex Gauna more or less summed up the overly-optimistic (mis)assessment of GPRO stock in his October 7th, 2014 interview with Bloomberg, saying:
“It’s the same way Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) transformed the animation industry, Nike (NYSE:NKE) transformed the shoe industry, Apple transformed the computing industry. That’s what we’re on the cusp of here.” Gauna also opined that the company’s on-time delivery of the Hero 4 camera to store shelves that it was “the kind of execution you like to see back the way Apple used to execute when Steve Jobs was around.”
Growth Struggle for GPRO Stock
With those kinds of parallels are drawn, it’s not difficult to understand why GoPro was at one time nearly a $12 billion company only producing annual sales of $1.12 billion at that time. Peak sales of $1.8 billion would materialize a year later. Since then, growth has been a struggle.
It’s an interview Gauna would like forgotten (though he’s in good company). GPRO stock is now one-tenth of its value from October of 2014. Demand for these devices, as it turns out, was never as big as hoped, or hyped.
It’s also an interview that never needed to become an embarrassing call, however, had he asked one simple question: How big is the action camera market, realistically?
Fast forward to now and the launch of the Fusion, and ask yourself, how big is the action camera market, realistically? How many of your neighbors and co-workers really want to bother making immersive, 360-degree videos?
A Big Hit for GPRO Stock
The enthusiasm is more tempered than the palpable enthusiasm surrounding the Hero 4 back in 2014. But the buzz is still strangely loud, considering what a disappointment most everything else from the company has been in the meantime. The aforementioned Omni and the Karma drone come to mind. And let’s not forget it was just a couple of weeks ago the stock took a big hit when the company had to concede its fourth-quarter sales wouldn’t be as strong as analysts were expecting. They’d also be down to the tune of 13% year-over-year. And this was despite the availability of the impressive Hero 6.
So it’s difficult to trust a company that’s underestimated its competition and overestimated its markets’ sizes so often in the past. Never even mind the fact that several other players have comparable 360-degree cameras on the market at a lower price than the Fusion. Some people — arguably most people — just want a cool toy to play with. They don’t see the need to pay up for better quality that may or may not matter.
Bottom Line for GPRO Stock
Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps there’s a massive, consumer-level market for 360-degree cameras. And perhaps this is a case where those consumers will insist on “the” name in action cameras. It’s a song and dance we’ve heard before though, to no avail.
Problem is, if the Fusion fizzles out, there’s not a “next great product” GoPro has in the lineup. Drones and conventional cameras never really got the expected traction, and now both markets are saturated. The 360-degree camera market, which is likely smaller, looks rather well saturated too. With nothing else to readily develop, a failure from the Fusion essentially paints the company into a corner.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him on Twitter.