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Vivendi's Mobile Entertainment Move

The French company's new multimedia service, called Zaoza, will deliver content across multiple devices and encourage users to share it with friends

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.