French conglomerate Vivendi's (VIVEF) first attempt to move into media and deliver it across different platforms was a disaster. Its $41 billion deal in 2000 to buy Universal Pictures' parent company Seagram left the company swimming in debt, and it spent tens of millions more with partner Vodafone (VOD) on a service called Vizzavi to deliver content across mobile, Internet, and TV, an effort that fizzled and then died.
But times have changed, so eight years later Vivendi, a onetime water utility for the city of Lyon, is at it again. The French company held a press conference Feb. 19 to launch a multimedia service called Zaoza, Chinese for "word of mouth" or "buzz," that will work on mobile phones and personal computers and later perhaps on TV set-top boxes. Zaoza will offer consumers unlimited downloads of exclusive content—including music, ringtones, video clips, and games—from a variety of content partners for €3 ($4.40) per month. The twist is that subscribers will be able to share—to and from PCs and mobile devices—everything they download with up to five friends.