BBC iPlayer for Nintendo Wii: First impressions

The BBC released their iPlayer application ("channel" in Nintendospeak) for the Nintendo Wii this morning (2009-11-18). For those not familiar with iPlayer, it provides the ability to play back recently-broadcast BBC TV and radio programmes on demand. I downloaded it this morning and my first impressions are:

• Downloadable free to UK users from Wii Shop Channels (0 points). It requires the Wii to be set to the UK region; if you bought your Wii in the UK this will already be the case. It isn't clear whether it also ties to UK geo-mapped IP addresses, so it would be interesting to see whether ex-pats in other PAL regions, such as my sister in Holland, might also be able to use this.

• Quick to download, takes up very little storage space - less than 50 blocks; even if you've already downloaded plenty of WiiWare games, you're bound to have space for it (the Wii initially has over 2000 blocks free; most saved data take up 1-2 blocks, entire downloaded games take up 100-500 blocks).

• Playback quality over WiFi on my 2 megabit ADSL line in a rural area was roughly equivalent to good VHS. There was no skipping, glitches nor audio dropouts for the 10-15 minutes I watched at 8am this morning. As with all digital video compression, programmes with lots of panning (camera moving about) or changing background detail (eg. trees blown about in the wind) do suffer from a little fuzziness or blockiness. No worse than the browser-based Flash player, and possibly slightly better; I need more time to judge. I did not notice a HD option.

• All BBC playback programmes are available as per the full iPlayer, including BBC 1-4, CBBC, CBeebies, BBC News, BBC Parliament at the surprisingly engrossing BBC Alba. Note to self, check to see if English subtitles work on BBC Alba's Gaelic programmes.

• There didn't seem to be any way to stream live channels. I may have missed this option. If you can't stream live TV, that would make sense - this should be legally restricted to British TV licence-fee payers, and the Wii iPlayer did not ask for my TV licence number.

• As well as browsing by channel, genre and date, there is a search option. Note to self, try my Logitech Wii keyboard (or any USB keyboard) to see if this works for entering search terms.

• Scrolling up and down long lists requires the user to click and drag the scroll bar, which is fiddly with the remote. You cannot use the D-pad up/down buttons to scroll up and down, as you can in the Wii Shop, Operations Manual or Internet browser. I quickly found this mildly annoying. This is my only criticism.

• There was no way to save content. Streamed content only. My ADSL contract gives me a whopping download limit, so I don't care. If you're limited to only a few gigabytes per month, you may need to watch your usage.

• I didn't check whether "resume from last position" was supported.

Public Domain - Andrew Oakley - 2009-11-18

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