Mobile phone giant Vodafone Airtouch, French media conglomerate Vivendi and broadcaster Canal+ have unveiled Europe’s first multi-access internet portal.
They have signed an agreement for the creation of a 50/50 company which will operate under the brand name of Vizzavi.
They say the brand name suggests the key values of the multi-access portal: Vizzavi is “my vis-‡-vis”. The portal will allow customers access e-mail; access a search engine and live help services, and conduct e-commerce transactions
It will become the default home page for Vodafone’s, Canal+’s and Vivendi’s national operating companies throughout Europe, with access to more than 70 million customers. Vizzavi will provide these services across mobile handsets, personal computers, televisions and personal digital assistants.
Vizzavi will be governed by a board of eight non-executive directors contributed equally by each partner and two executive directors (CEO and CFO). Evan Newmark has been appointed chief executive.
The business will be chaired initially by Vivendi CEO Jean-Marie Messier until mid-2002 when Vodafone chief executive Chris Gent will take over under an agreement that the chairmanship of the company will rotate every two years. Further board appointments will be announced in due course.
The company will be headquartered in London, UK with national subsidiaries initially in France, Germany and Italy. In the coming months, the existing portal assets and resources of Vodafone’s and Vivendi’s operating companies, excluding VivendiNet vertical portals, will be transferred to Vizzavi.
The operating companies (television and mobile), in the UK, France, Germany and Italy will be offered 20 per cent of the equity of the national Vizzavi subsidiaries.
The revenue sharing arrangement allows for 100 per cent of the access revenues to remain with the national operating company while the portal gross margin will be split 50/50 between Vizzavi and the national operating company. This arrangement is subject to review after two years.
Vizzavi will have its own technology team working in close co-operation with Vodafone’s global mobile platform technology team.
The partners anticipate that Vizzavi will be launched commercially in France within the next few weeks, in compliance with the Cegetel shareholders’ agreement, and in the UK in July, and in Germany and Italy by the end of the year.
Content will be provided by VivendiNet (Havas, Havas Interactive and Canal+) on a preferred supplier basis and Vizzavi will source further external content and develop some services in-house.
VivendiNet will also be a preferred supplier outside of Europe. It is anticipated that the other operating affiliates of Vodafone and Vivendi will sign agreements on a similar basis.
In addition to the Vizzavi joint venture agreement, VivendiNet and Vodafone have agreed to study cooperating in multi-access portals outside Europe.
Subject to the Cegetel shareholders agreement, Vodafone has offered Vivendi the possibility of purchasing the entire 15 per cent of Cegetel’s capital stock currently held by Vodafone.
The standstill agreement covering Vodafone taking a position in Vivendi has been extended to four years.
Commenting on the agreement, Vodafone chief executive Chris Gent said: “This marks a significant step in our progress to become one of the world’s leading providers of internet services. It will give access to the internet and the range of bespoke services that Vizzavi will provide, through any form of device that can access the internet, to anyone who chooses to use it, wherever they may be.”
Vivendi CEO Jean-Marie Messier added: “Due to its multi-access possibilities, its personalized, seamless content and the size of its customer base, Vizzavi is set to become the first portal of the second Internet age. Over and beyond, the use of the wireless application protocol (WAP), it heralds the start of high speed technologies and fluid dialogue between different devices. It’s a double revolution that will turn the internet into a simple, useful and fun tool that will become part of daily life for everyone.”