GoPro’s CEO on his media ambitions, potential Apple rivalry and drones

Nicholas "Nick" Woodman, founder and chief executive officer of GoPro, holds a GoPro Hero 3+ camera.
Photograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg/Getty Images

Nick Woodman has built a video camera empire with GoPro. Now the CEO wants to create a media empire and maybe few others too.

Fortune interviewed the GoPro founder Thursday after he wrapped up an earnings call with analysts. The quarter went quite well, by most measures.

Fourth-quarter revenue grew 75% to $634 million thanks strong holiday sales. Profits nearly tripled to $122.3 million. However, Wall Street wasn’t impressed by the company’s weaker-than-expected guidance and the departure of its chief operating officer, Nina Richardson. After initially spiking 14% in after-hours trading, GoPro’s shares (GPRO) tumbled more than 15%.

Here’s what Woodman told Fortune about what’s next for GoPro in action cameras, sports media and, maybe, drones.

On GoPro’s year ahead:

“The short answer is really feel really good about the future and about this year,” Woodman said. He pointed to GoPro’s initial public offering in June as helping to build momentum and attract new talent to the company. After the earnings Thursday, GoPro’s shares fell to just over $46, nearly double the IPO price. However, it marks quite a fall from their high of nearly $94.

Woodman’s long-term vision for GoPro includes pushing beyond selling cameras to becoming a full-fledged media company. But it won’t happen tomorrow.

“Our vision for GoPro is a big one and it’s not something we’re going to realize this quarter, next [quarter] or the next,” he said. “This is an incremental, evolutionary thing.”

On the departure of COO Nina Richardson:

“We’re not actually replacing her,” Woodman said. “And, that’s testament to the great job she did — she built out fabulous teams that have great leadership and she’s left us in a terrific position.”

Richardson joined GoPro from a portfolio company of Riverwood Capital after the private equity firm invested in GoPro in 2011. Her job was to help build the company’s infrastructure and make strategic hires.

“It was clear that, while we could still benefit from her being here, we were going to do just fine if she decided to go on and do other things because of the quality of team that she built,” Woodman said.

A triumvirate led by Woodman, along with company president Anthony Bates and chief financial officer Jack Lazar, will take over Richardson’s duties.

On GoPro’s ambitions of becoming a media empire:

GoPro signaled its serious ambitions in sports broadcasting through recent agreements with the National Hockey League and ESPN’s Winter X Games. Athletes wearing the company’s cameras will film the action live from their perspective.

The first example – the N.H.L. All-Star Game – took place last month.

The first step was to build cameras that come with the ability to stream live video wirelessly. It makes video easy to upload, and is a necessity for broadcasting live events.

GoPro also has deals in place to add its GoPro Channel app to streaming media player Roku and Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox gaming console. The app is a sort of YouTube for action sports nuts who want to either upload or watch videos of dare-devil skateboarding, surfing and rock climbing

Woodman also mentioned GoPro’s major presence on YouTube. Last year, it uploaded nearly four years of user videos to the service. Underscoring the appeal of that video, he said that YouTube viewers spent 59% more time watching those clips on that than the previous year.

“That is a media movement,” Woodman said.

More television and online streaming is coming, Woodman promised But he emphasized that GoPro’s primary goal is for camera owners to shoot more video and to make it easier for them to upload those clips online, watch them and share them.

“From that increased content-sharing by our customers you get an increased pool of content from which we can aggregate the best of user-generated content and redistribute it as the GoPro Channel,” Woodman said.

Only then can GoPro become a media empire with a big enough archive, he said. His company’s interests, he said, are totally aligned with those of its customers.

“We’re building first what they want the most,” Woodman said. “And then, out of their use of our products and services, we’ll get this fabulous media opportunity.”

On action camera rivals and Apple’s potential challenge:

GoPro’s shares took a beating recently following reports that Apple (AAPL) was awarded a new patent for a wearable video camera. A host of other companies — including Panasonic, Polaroid and Sony, to name a few — have already introduced rival action cameras to GoPro’s. But Apple’s entry into the market would take the competition to new level. Apple, after all, knows how to make and sell blockbuster electronics.

But Woodman downplayed the importance of new competitors and called the “whole hullabaloo” over Apple’s patent overblown. As Fortune reported, Apple’s patent application was actually filed in 2012 and it incorporates a patent the tech giant acquired from Eastman Kodak two years ago. While Woodman acknowledged that it’s impossible to know Apples plans, he thinks the patent “by no means implies that Apple is intending to enter the space.”

What’s more, Woodman said GoPro has thrived for years despite “considerable competition.”

“I think that it’s easy, now that we’re public and we’re on the global financial radar, to now be paying attention to these competitors,” he said. “But, the truth is they’ve been around for years.”

On drones:

A few months ago, reports surfaced that GoPro was developing a line of consumer drones. The move would seem to make sense — GoPro cameras are already a popular way shoot aerial video.

Woodman was cagey about the topic with Fortune saying he could not share what the company may or may not be building. But he did say that he sees drones as a great business opportunity.

“What I can tell you [is] drones are great for GoPro, and GoPro is great for drones,” Woodman said. “Whether or not we officially get into the business, the drone industry has been fabulous for us, because it seems like most of them out there are carrying a GoPro.”

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