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(Aug. 30, 2001) PARIS -- Franco-Canadian media titan Vivendi Universal has unveiled a new telecoms venture that aims to link two of its leading businesses -- music and mobile phones -- while boosting the group's overall entertainment industry distribution activities.

The Sept. 14 launch of Universal Music Mobile will offer consumers the chance to turn their mobile phones into music machines offering four interrelated services: listening to songs by Universal artists, including previews of unreleased singles; buying CDs and DVDs at reduced prices; preferential treatment for concert tickets; and news and other information on the label's stars.

The new "music-on-mobile" venture shows that Vivendi CEO Jean-Marie Messier remains intent on transforming the company from a multitiered conglomerate with a handful of core businesses into a focused, pure-player in the entertainment industry.

Parallel announcements in recent days also confirm Mr. Messier's long-term intentions.

U.K.-based investment fund Cinven is offering more than $1.8 billion to acquire French trade press leader Vivendi Universal Publishing, on the block since mid-2001. And Vivendi executives have admitted in recent days that the company is negotiating the acquisition of Paris' top concert hall, L'Olympia, which could serve as an attractive forum for showcasing Universal's stable of recording artists.

Universal Mobile Music fits nicely into the group's new "entertainment first" philosophy. It will operate independently of Vivendi's SFR mobile operator -- France's second-largest, with more than 13 million clients -- and has set its sights on 200,00 new mobile phone subscribers by year-end. Mr. Messier predicts that the UMM service, targeted at the 12- to 25-year-old age group, will seduce more than 1 million clients by 2003.

In a bid to appeal to the target audience, TV advertising for the Universal Mobile Music launch has been prepared by French actor-comedian Jamel Debbouze, a popular entertainment industry figure who rose to fame hosting a daily variety show on Vivendi-owned pay TV network Canal Plus.

Mr. Debbouze has written and directed three TV spots for the launch, all of which are slated for widespread broadcast starting in mid-September.

Print press, outdoor and radio ads from FKGB, Paris, fill out the media plan, which is being coordinated by Aegis Group-owned Carat, Paris. -- Lawrence J. Speer

Copyright August 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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