GoPro Is Looking Beyond Hero Cameras for Growth

By Travis Hoium Markets Fool.com

If GoPro Inc (NASDAQ: GPRO) is going to mount any sort of recovery in the next year or two, it's not going to do it on the back of Hero cameras. The Hero line that made GoPro what it is has limited opportunities for growth and margins continue to be under pressure versus where they were a couple of years ago.

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That doesn't mean GoPro doesn't have some growth opportunities up its sleeve. The Karma drone is in the market, and a 360 degree camera could be the next big hit. Here's what to watch for in 2017.

Image source: GoPro.

Will Karma be upgraded this year?

GoPro's normal product cycle in cameras is to upgrade them once a year. In drones, it may not be reasonable to expect the same cycle upgrade, but an upgrade this year could be great for the company.

The first version of Karma was really a tiptoe into the drone market, an area many companies have failed. And just getting a drone off the ground is a hurdle many companies never got over. But now GoPro needs to take a bigger step to offer a product more people might buy.

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Adding features like collision avoidance and more automated flying features like "follow me" would be a big step in the right direction and catch Karma up with some of the popular DJI Mavic's standard features. With drones improving year after year, GoPro can't just stand pat with a drone that's "good enough," particularly as competitors improve around it.

There's no definitive word on if GoPro will improve the Karma in 2017, but for drones to be a big business for the company, it probably needs to.

360 video could be GoPro's growth engine

For the next year or two, I don't think drones will be a huge business for GoPro, even if Karma is updated in the next year. But the Fusion spherical camera is the perfect product extension for GoPro's business and could be a much easier product for consumers to adopt.

We don't know a lot about Fusion yet except that it's a spherical camera that's supposed to allow you to reframe images in 2D shots and see full-field of view in VR. This leverages GoPro's acquisition of Kolor a couple of years ago and its experience with the Omni spherical camera rig.

Early images and comments from GoPro indicate that the camera will mount in existing GoPro hardware, which would make it an easy addition to a customers' collection. And if the company can get the Kolor software to the point where it's easy to use, particularly in mobile devices, this could be a huge winner. And with a launch planned in 2017, Fusion could be the growth driver GoPro needs.

Boosting a stagnant business

GoPro can't regain profitability or boost its stock price without new products to boost growth. Volume numbers in the last two years have shown that while the Hero camera market is large, it isn't growing, and as competitors enter the space the product's margins keep coming down.

But the Karma drone and Fusion spherical camera could be GoPro's future growth products if they're upgraded or introduced in 2017. And investors will want to see both of these products become big focuses later this year.

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Travis Hoium owns shares of GoPro. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends GoPro. The Motley Fool has the following options: short January 2019 $12 calls on GoPro and long January 2019 $12 puts on GoPro. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.