Mobile Content, As Seen on TV

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TV viewers may soon have a way to find and purchase ringtones and other content for their mobile phones, using nothing more than their remote controls.

Zodiac Interactive, which specializes in set-top-based games, has launched a new mobile content search engine called Zodigo. The interactive-TV software developer anticipates the service will show up on cable and satellite set-top boxes, as well as the Web, high-definition DVD players and video-game consoles.

Zodiac has established Zodigo as an independent, 18-person subsidiary based in New York that is raising funding from outside investors. The Zodigo service lets mobile-phone subscribers buy and download games, applications, ringtones, wallpaper, video, songs and other digital content.

“It's like a movies-on-demand service for mobile content,” said Matt Johnston, Zodiac senior vice president of strategy and Zodigo's CEO.

Out of the gate, he said, Zodigo will cover 97% of the North American market, with partners that include Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile. All transactions are billed through the mobile operators, and Zodigo's distribution partners will receive about 15% of the revenue.

DirecTV is planning to deploy Zodigo on its set-tops in the first half of the year, Johnston said, and at least three cable operators are in line to offer the service as well.

“I've had healthier conversations with cable operators about this than with interactive games or anything else,” Johnston said.

The system, previously called “TV Call Me,” has been two years in the works, Johnston said.

When users enter their phone number, Zodigo figures out the type of phone they have. The system is also designed to automatically learn about a user's preferences, and recommends only content that is compatible with individual phones.

Zodigo's competitors include Flycell, Jamster and Thumbplay, which let users purchase mobile content from their Web sites. But, Johnston said, “we're the only game in town doing stuff on set-top boxes, game consoles and Blu-ray” high-definition DVD players.