iPlayer on Wii

I was excited last month about the BBC’s iPlayer service being available on the iPhone and iPod touch.  Today I’m excited about it being available for the Nintendo Wii.  Internet TV … on the TV!

It’s pretty easy – you just need the Internet Channel (Nintendo’s silly name for Opera for the Wii, and an excuse to charge you £3.50 for a browser that’s available free on pretty much every other platform ever) and then … just go to the iPlayer site and off you go.

(Incidentally, the Internet Channel on the Wii is a fantastic idea, but really brings home to me a) how poor a TV set is as a computer display and b) just how desperately poor the text-entry system is on the Wii.  Watching YouTube is workable and more fun than on a computer.  Very little else is.)

Of course, it’s been possible to stream videos from your PC to your Wii via the Internet Channel for a while, through various bits of software.  And it is also entirely possible – if somewhat dubious – to strip the DRM from iPlayer downloads so you can stream them.  (Or indeed blow them to DVD and walk them through from the PC to the living room.  Never underestimate the bandwidth of sneakernet!) So this has been possible in principle for some time, but a lot more technical faff than most people can be doing with.  iPlayer is about bringing P2P to the masses, rather than the geeky copyfighting few.

As another aside, I’m amused at the ISP industry taking against iPlayer.  (See, e.g., El Reg’s piece on the recent spat between Tiscali and the BBC.)  Parts of the IT industry often seem to want to defy ordinary economic gravity – I’m reminded of the dot-com nonsense (“How could that possibly make money?”  “If you read our business plan you’d see that we will develop a monetisation strategy in Q6”).  In what other industry would businesses get terribly unhappy if the demand for their product increased beyond what they had ever anticipated?  Madness.

To be fair, it’s more as if they’ve worked out one way of making money and don’t want technical development and change to stop that working.  Rather like mobile phone ringtone vendors, traditional record industry executives, blacksmiths and indeed the original Luddites, then.  For technology companies to take that position is particularly odd.  And life-limiting.  I’d advise against buying Tiscali stock.

Anyway!  Enough asides.  What about iPlayer on the Wii?  Is it any good?

Alas, no.  At least, not for me tonight.  The resolution is great.  There seems to be far more content available than when the iPhone/iPod touch version was launched.  But the bandwidth is so rubbish as to render it unwatchable with stutters and stops.  Don’t know for sure what that’s down to – no problem at all on my desktop PC over Ether to my router, or my iPod touch using the same WiFi network as the Wii.  Anthony Rose from the BBC mentions in his announcement that they’ve had to up the bitrate for the Wii from 500 to 820 Kbps because they need to use a less-efficient codec to work with the ancient version of Flash the Wii uses.  That could be it.

Still – maybe the BBC’s wizards will fix this with tweaking.  Maybe I’ll think of some way round the physical barriers to running a hard connection from my router to the Wii.  Maybe something even better will turn up next month!

And while I’m waiting, my copy of Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party for the Wii should arrive very soon …


Author: dougclow

Academic in the Institute of Educational Technology, the Open University, UK. Interested in technology-enhanced learning and learning analytics.