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GoPro’s media ambitions never made sense, and now it's cutting its entertainment division

The action camera company is laying off 15 percent of its staff, and President Tony Bates is stepping down.

GoPro Camera Maker Goes Public On The NASDAQ Exchange Andrew Burton / Getty

GoPro was never really a media company despite how much it kept pushing that narrative to investors, and today it announced it is cutting 15 percent of its workforce and dropping its entertainment division.

Two hundred full-time positions will be eliminated in an attempt to reduce operating expenses.

Tony Bates, the president of GoPro since June 2014, will also step down by the end of the year. Bates came to GoPro from Microsoft and previously also served as the CEO of Skype. He joined right before GoPro went public and oversaw the company’s unsuccessful attempt to expand its entertainment offerings.

GoPro isn’t profitable. Its shares have lost half their value this year. With the restructuring, GoPro expects to reduce operating costs to $650 million by 2017 and return to profitability. The company estimates the layoffs will cost between $24 million and $33 million.

The sporty hardware company made a series of high-profile hires to bolster its entertainment division in 2015, including the former head of Hulu Originals programming Charlotte Koh and HBO sports executive Bill McCullough, and even won an Emmy in 2014 for its Hero 3 camera.

Hopes of cashing in on GoPro user-generated content — as well as its large YouTube audience, which now clocks in at over 4.3 million subscribers and in 2014 boasted status as YouTube’s top brand channel — never panned out.

GoPro was always fundamentally a hardware company. Its attempt to revive sales this year with its hyped Karma drone failed after the product was recalled within three weeks of its launch date following reports that units were losing power and could fall from the sky.

This isn’t the first wave of layoffs to hit the company in 2016. GoPro announced a 7 percent reduction in staff in January, which amounted to about 100 layoffs, after 2015 holiday sales failed to meet quarterly expectations.

Still, GoPro reports 2016 Black Friday camera sales were up over 35 percent from last year at top U.S. retailers. Best known for its high-quality, rugged cameras, GoPro should go back to focusing on making their hardware deadlines. That, if anything, will be their salvation.

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