By Jeremy C. Owens, MarketWatch
After announcing layoffs, millions of dollars in charges on a failed product launch, weak holiday sales and low expectations for the year, one might expect GoPro Inc. to scale back its ambitions and be chastened in the face of investors who have seen the stock slide 90%.
Chief Executive and cofounder Nicholas Woodman did not follow that path, though. In a conference call Wednesday, he confidently said GoPro /zigman2/quotes/209165587/composite GPRO 0.00% is “doubling down” and announced or reiterated a bevy of planned launches for 2016: a new Hero5 camera, revamped software to edit and upload video, the Karma drone and a virtual-reality rig.
“In 2016, we are committed to delivering the breakthrough experience we’ve all been waiting for,” Woodman promised.
Woodman adopted a defiant manner in a chaotic moment for GoPro, playing down analyst concerns about competition and GoPro’s ability to expand beyond its core consumer. While providing quarterly guidance well below expectations, he said GoPro would stop delivering quarterly guidance altogether in favor of forecasting on an annual basis.
“I was a bit surprised by the tone on the call, which displayed a complete lack of contrition and regret even in the face of terrible earnings and worse guidance,” JackDaw research chief analyst Jan Dawson said.
Woodman’s determined tone did seem to somewhat stanch the latest blood-letting for GoPro stock, as after-hours declines of 16% were nearly halved to slightly less than 9% during the conference call. GoPro shares were still trading for less than the company’s all-time low of $9.90, though. The new lows would be more than 90% lower than GoPro’s peak price of $98.47, reached a few months after the action-camera company’s 2014 initial public offering.
Much of that decline can be attributed to last year’s launch of the Hero4 Session, which was priced at $399 on launch but was soon cut to $299 and then $199 as inventory built up. Those reductions resulted in a $40 million charge due to price protections, as well as a $57 million charge for issues such as excess purchase-order commitments and inventory.
Woodman took the blame for that misstep in an email obtained by Recode earlier this year , after the CEO announced layoffs at the San Mateo, Calif., company. Now, Woodman is planning a new launch, with the company’s first big failure very prominent in his rear-view mirror.
Woodman said that the new Hero5 would be GoPro’s “most connected” camera yet, part of an effort to make sharing of video easier that includes the recent move to facilitate live streaming through Twitter Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR -0.56% Periscope. More importantly to some analysts, Woodman promised a total revamp of the software GoPro provides, with a desktop version and further advances that should make it easier for users to upload the videos they capture.
Analysts have said that GoPro’s software was hurting sales of its action cameras, as users could capture smartphone footage and more easily edit and share it with friends.
“Without compelling differences in software, GoPro devices will remain a niche alternative to smartphone video capture — growth will continue to slow and fall in-line with the broader digital camera market,” Morgan Stanley analysts said last year.
GoPro also confirmed that the Karma drone, the first quadcopter released by the company, would hit shelves in the first half of the year. Many hobbyists strap GoPro cameras to drones built by other companies, but the company has been dropping footage from its own offering this year, including a new video released Wednesday .
Executives also said its virtual reality rig, a set of cameras designed to film 360-degree spherical video, would be available in summer. Some experts believe that the expansion into drones and virtual reality is key to the company continuing to grow revenues beyond its core camera business, and The Verge has even theorized that the company may combine the two products into a new drone category.
GoPro executives’ statements Wednesday show that 2016 will be a key indicator of whether GoPro will ever live up to the lofty prices paid for its stock in 2014, or whether its slower growth in 2015 will be more indicative of the company’s path.
“They do have new products in the pipeline, which should help,” Dawson said. “But I’m not sure I buy the argument that better software will dramatically improve hardware sales.”