GoPro announced 'Calendar Year 2015 Preliminary Results' and it doesn't make for pretty reading. However, if GoPro brings new innovations to market, it may be able to reverse its fortunes in 2016.
Things are looking tough out there with GoPro's surprise announcement that it will miss targets by more than $70m in what appears to a big shake up in the company. This will include a 7% reduction in its workforce.
Quite why this has happened is open to speculation. GoPro is renowned for being the 'go to' action camera, but it may now be succumbing to less expensive rivals. While the Hero4 Black Edition is one of the few that will record 4K video at 30fps (and most of the cameras in the range are capable of the higher bitrate ProTune modes and log gamma), it seems that the number of people prepared to pay a premium for such features is limited.
The Hero4 Session, which debuted last year, also came at a premium price of £349, not far off that of the Hero4 Black Edition, with only its size as its USP. GoPro responded to the lack of uptake by reducing the price to £160.
GoPro's biggest headache is cheaper and more innovative competitors. With reputable manufacturers such as Sony, Garmin, TomTom, Kodak, and even Nikon entering the fray, this is only the tip of the iceberg when we take into account some of the lesser known Chinese brands, which are often using the same sensors as GoPro.
GoPro products are often used by professionals, too. But with higher quality alternatives such as the Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera, offering Prores and DNG raw recording, coming to market, this is yet another front from which GoPro will possibly be taking battle damage, albeit to a lesser degree than the consumer side of things.
Shrinking premium market?
GoPro has marketed itself as a media company that makes cameras. Much of its promotional material is based around the action adventure sports scene. Unfortunately, many of the main participants in such sports are people in their teens and early 20's who cannot afford to pay a premium for a camera that, for all intents and purposes, may get a thorough trashing in the field.
Because of the harsh environments that such cameras are exposed to, more and more adventure sports participants are opting to go for some of the cheaper Chinese makes, simply because it won't matter to them if the camera gets wrecked. For many, the difference in picture quality is minimal and such cameras are usually compatible with the vast array of GoPro mounts available.
The need for new innovation
Such rival manufacturers are now including innovative features to make sharing videos quicker and easier. A fair few of them offer much longer battery life than the GoPros, along with image stabilisation and monitors that can be viewed in bright sunlight. In such a crowded market, GoPro cannot afford to lose out in the innovation stakes. Such cameras are now a commodity and they will really need to offer something special to justify the premium prices of some of its products.
The company is preparing to move beyond its action camera base with the addition of the new Karma drone. It remains to be seen what this new system will offer, but GoPro will need to remain mindful of the fact that it is not only entering an increasingly crowded market once again, but one that is fraught with legalities when it comes to flight automation, should that be the direction in which the company is headed.
When GoPro first came to the fore, there weren't many alternatives who offered the quality or mounting versatility that it did. We can only hope that GoPro can regain lost ground by offering something earth shattering again in the very near future.