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GoPro’s next act: building an online entertainment empire

October 14, 2015, 1:00 PM UTC
GoPro creator Nick Woodman
GoPro creator Nick Woodman
Photograph by Victor J. Blue — Bloomberg via Getty Images

GoPro (GPRO) is known for its action cameras, but according to Zander Lurie, the company’s senior vice president of media, the hardware maker wants to be so much more than that.

“We want to build an entertainment business to fit alongside the hardware and accessories business we built,” Lurie told Fortune. “In a perfect world, we build a robust streaming business that makes our (overall) business better.”

While GoPro’s nearly $4 billion business is based on the company selling more hardware each year, Lurie believes that there’s a compelling opportunity for GoPro to become an entertainment destination. That’s why his company announced on Wednesday that it will ante up $5 million over the next year to GoPro users who create unique or interesting content with GoPro devices. Lurie told Fortune that GoPro is after both professional and amateur content with the singular goal of showing the world some of the best creations GoPro owners can capture through their cameras.

“We have 15,000 videos uploaded to YouTube each day that are tagged or titled GoPro,” Lurie said. “We don’t ask consumers to do that; they just do it. What we’re trying to do is grow our brand and reward community members who are doing cool things with our cameras.”

There’s no doubt that GoPro cameras help create “cool” videos. A quick Google search reveals a slew of compelling videos, showing people wearing the action cameras as they ski down a dangerous trail or bike through an old village. GoPro has become the go-to company for active people who want to capture the interesting things they’re doing. With help from accessories, like head mounts or waterproof cases, GoPro owners are taking viewers to places they may have never seen.

All of those videos are critical to GoPro’s business. When GoPro went public in 2014, the company noticed a spike in camera sales whenever its online videos went viral. The more compelling the content, the more hardware they sold.

The new GoPro Awards program is designed to enhance the production-based spirit of the GoPro community, but it’s also a bold step. GoPro is a hardware company that now wants to be considered an entertainment and streaming company, as well. What’s more, it’s willing to dole out some serious cash to get there.

GoPro will pay $500 for a cool photo, $1,000 for a raw video, and $5,000 for a fully edited video that showcases something interesting. GoPro will then promote the content through its social media sites and on its video channels, like those on the Roku set-top box and LG televisions. GoPro will even start selling user creations through its licensing program to ad agencies and other firms. According to Lurie, if an ad agency asks to buy content from GoPro’s licensing program, the device maker will give creators a piece of the revenue. Lurie declined to say how revenue would be split between the parties.

Regardless, the awards program highlights a potentially important change in how GoPro views the market. The move also comes as it watches its stock price plummet and shareholders grow increasingly concerned about the future. Since January, GoPro shares are down nearly 56% to $28.08 over concerns of weakening demand for the company’s products. A weak mid-summer launch for a new, diminutive GoPro called the Hero4 Session didn’t help matters. Now going into the holiday shopping season, investors seem concerned that things won’t get better.

Attempting to build interest in GoPro entertainment through an awards program could create a dual benefit that may help the company. Viral videos will ultimately help GoPro sell more products, and if GoPro can cultivate more video sharing and start generating revenue off of them its content may become another destination for people seeking bite-sized video clips on the Web.

“We’re big believers in the sharing economy and we want to reward [customers] for great content,” Lurie said. “So we’re also building an entertainment business. We definitely want to compete for time and attention for fans of GoPro content. I think we are uniquely positioned because unlike Instagram, Vine, or YouTube, we have millions of people who have our capture devices and pursue their passion.”

The awards program—and GoPro’s desire to become more than just a hardware business—is also about cultivating more loyalty in its company, Lurie said. The company’s executive team is actively exploring ways to “inspire consumers to get tighter with GoPro.”

“I want them to go to a party and say ‘GoPro is rad,'” he said.

Some GoPro owners may already be saying that, but right now they’re only talking about hardware. In the coming months, GoPro hopes that the conversation will slowly start to change and consumers start talking about its awards program. Meanwhile, the company is also eyeing a “broader content initiative” that will see the company “have more and more partnerships with brands and Hollywood.” The pieces are in place, in other words, for GoPro to reinvent how people view its business.

“We will be a streaming media business in 2016 and beyond,” Lurie said.

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