bbc.co.uk Navigation

BBC Internet Blog

Anthony Rose

BBC iPlayer on Wii


Last month we made BBC iPlayer available on Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch devices, the first of many mobile platforms that we hope to support.

The theme for this month’s iPlayer release is “iPlayer in the living room” i.e. watching BBC on-demand programmes on your big-screen television set.

Today, most people watch iPlayer programmes on their computer. That’s great – you can watch your favourite BBC programmes curled up in bed with your notebook PC, or on your study desk while you check your email, or (if you downloaded our programmes) on the plane or away abroad on holiday.

But have you tried hooking up your computer to your TV set?

scart.png
iPlayer programmes, particularly downloaded programmes, look great on a TV. The video quality is usually even better when iPlayer programmes are played back on a TV than on your computer screen. Most newish computers, particularly notebook computers, have an S-video output, which, with a suitable S-video to SCART cable, can connect to most modern TV sets. If you have an LCD or plasma TV, chances are that it will have a Video Graphics Array input which will give even better picture quality when connected to the VGA output of your notebook PC. (N.B. Picture of S-Video output courtsey of yum9me on flickr)

If you have a Nintendo Wii, it’s already connected to your TV, and now you can play BBC iPlayer programmes directly on your Wii.

On your Wii, you’ll first need to install the Internet Channel, which costs 500 Wii points, or approx. £3.50. Unfortunately there’s no alternative to having to buy the Wii Internet Channel for iPlayer web site access at his time. But later we hope to be able to get iPlayer on Wii without this purchase being needed (see below). After you’ve installed the Internet Channel, browse to www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer, find your favourite programme, and hit Play. The programme should stream and play immediately as we're no longer using full-screen mode

Connect your PC, Mac or Wii to your TV now and get a glimpse of the future: which is of course an IP-connected browser-based device that plays video-on-demand programming on your TV set.

For those who are after the tech details, here’s the lowdown on our Wii port:

Nintendo Wii supports only Flash 7, which uses the Sorenson Spark codec rather than the ON2 VP6 codec introduced with Flash 8. Unfortunately the Sorenson compression isn’t nearly as good as ON2 VP6 compression, which is why most video sites gave up encoding their content in Flash 7 compatible format.

However, there are a lot of Wii boxes out there hooked up to TV sets, so with a little extra encoding effort (specifically, transcoding an additional 400 hours per week in an extra format) we can make BBC iPlayer programming available on Flash 7-enabled devices, including Wii.

Our regular Flash content is encoded at 500Kbps. We chose that bitrate because it’s the highest quality that could be reliably streamed on pretty much any UK broadband internet connection. However, for Wii we had to increase the bitrate to 820Kbps because the Sorenson codec used by Wii simply needs more bits to achieve the same picture quality. So, for a smooth playback experience on Wii you’ll need an internet connection that can give you 1Mbps or better. If you’re experiencing buffering issues, try turning off those P2P downloads that are running on other computers around your home.

The Flash player that ships with Wii was designed to support YouTube-style quality levels rather than the much higher video quality that we try to provide in iPlayer. Unfortunately that means on Wii, at least at this time, our programmes won’t look as crisp as on Mac, PC or iPhone. iPlayer on Wii is still in beta, and over the coming weeks we’ll tweak the video encoding rates and playback window size to get the best possible video quality.

There are over 2.5 million Wiis in the UK, which according to Nintendo should reach 5 million by Christmas, so getting onto Wii means potentially a huge new audience for BBC iPlayer. However, we’re taking a phased approach to this, where we’ve started with a relatively low development effort of keeping our regular iPlayer site (which is a bit large for the Wii’s 800 pixel wide screen size, requiring some scrolling when browsing for programmes) and encoding content in Flash 7 format.

As iPlayer usage on Wii takes off, we’ll consider creating an optimised version of the iPlayer for Wii. Hopefully this won’t require people to shell out for the Internet Channel, and which will provide an optimized browsing and playback experience, perhaps even as a dedicated BBC iPlayer channel on Wii.

Stay tuned for more on this.

Anthony Rose is Head of Digital Media Technologies, BBC Future Media and Technology.

Comments  Post your comment

That's excellent - I was wondering only yesterday if there was a way to use the wii as a media extender, then you release this which is definately a step in the right direction.

looking forward to trying it out when I get home

  • 2.
  • At 2:47 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Pete wrote:

Excellent news! I'm becoming increasingly impressed with the obvious planning behind iPlayer, and the manner in which it's being rolled out.
Hope to see an iPlayer Wii channel in the not-too far off future :)

  • 3.
  • At 2:54 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • dave wrote:

This comment will probably disappear into the same bottomless pit that all my other attempts have gone into, but...

Please try speaking to both Opera and Nintendo about this. Something based on Ogg Theora and Opera's HTML5 video element support would be very welcome.

Thanks for spending my licence fee on things I care about.

  • 4.
  • At 3:46 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • ar wrote:

This is great news. As a new Wii user I purchased the internet channel already to see if iPlayer - and other on demand services - would work but discovered the flash problems you talk about. Let's hope Nintendo issue an update to upgrade the wii to flash 8, then bitrates can come down and the BBC won't get in so much trouble with ISPs.

I know we're still in Beta here, but what's the best way to connect the Wii to the TV to get the best picture quality? I'm just using the standard cable (to the video and audio inputs on the TV), but I think other cables are available, so some steerage here would eb appreciated (you've covered pretty much everything else!).

This also raises some interesting questions about how to get ip to TV. I was considering buying a slingcatcher when it comes out as that promises to play pretty much all formats of video and music, including streamed files; but if content providers such as yourselves are going to provide content via 'boxes' such as the Wii, then maybe that's the future - pick a set-top box that does one 'unique' thing, such as the wii, and other content gets delivered via that.

On that subject - when will iPlayer be available via Apple TV? I assume you are just working through devices based on popularity? And what platfomrs will 'Project Kangaroo' be available on when it comes out later in the year?

  • 5.
  • At 4:28 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Josh wrote:

I'd like it on my Xbox 360. You could do it via Xbox Live!

I always find it amusing when people make helpful suggestions that the BBC 'speak to Nintendo' etc... I wonder how they think this project could have been delivered without the closest of collaboration between the two parties....

Well done, BBC - this makes the decision to go out and buy a Wii on my way home from work that much easier.

  • 7.
  • At 4:41 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Stephen wrote:

Great news - a great step - but please tell me that it's in development for Apple TV!

The iPhone/touch quality (due to your H.264 encoding) is really superb and the Apple TV 2 software would be a fantastic interface to iPlayer content - even if it was only streaming and not download.

This is the best news since the iPhone announcement. I have a Mac and I've desperately been trying to find a way to get iPlayer onto my TV. Connecting the Mac directly to the TV isn't ideal but this really is the perfect solution. Wii also runs really quietly too, which is a bonus.

Since you guys got this working with Flash on Wii, does this mean we can expect it to work with Flash on PSP too?

  • 9.
  • At 7:10 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Daniel wrote:

I was actually going to post something trite about rolling out to things like the iPhone and the Wii while I still can't download videos on OS X.

But I'm not going to - you're doing a really great job, and I'm actually really, really happy to see the BBC validating it's license fee by pushing the envelope so quickly in ways like this. You're important to Britain, you're a fantastic asset and you're doing a great job. Thanks!

(Now get iPlayer working on my Mac properly!!)

  • 10.
  • At 7:16 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Sean wrote:

Will this work on other devices which support flash 7?

  • 11.
  • At 7:22 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Aris wrote:

Please bring a native iPlayer Wii channel. I tried it today and it works quite well (though the text on the screen was small - perhaps you should consider a different layout and text size for Wii clients), and it would have been nice to optionally expand the video to be full screen (even at the cost of picture quality).

  • 12.
  • At 8:18 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Max wrote:

Horrah! Now, just make it full screen please!

  • 13.
  • At 9:00 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Mark Kelly wrote:

@Peter Bowyer: Very easily. I've had Flash 7 video running on Wii before- my own videos on my own site as well as those encoded by Orb and some YouTube videos.

Obviously there will have been communications between both parties to do the message that's being sent out, but on a technical level there's nothing the BBC couldn't have done alone.

On a more general note, glad to see this happening- games are one of the major draws away from TV, so this is a very smart step for the BBC, and kudos for picking the one with the best-suited interface for the job.

  • 14.
  • At 9:31 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Mark G wrote:

Please don't forget PS3, it's browser already supports Flash7 content already, and has done for over a year.

I assume at some point when you visit iPlayer, you will query the browsers flash version and deliver the correct content.

PLEASE MAKE SURE PS3 OWNERS CAN ALSO GFET FLASH7 CONTENT>

  • 15.
  • At 10:15 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Stephen wrote:

It would be nice if the BBC would allow you to select the version you use. I have another device [Archos 605, Opera/9.02 (armv5tejl; U; ARCHOS; GOGI; a605;en] instead of Opera/9.02 (Nintendo Wii; U; ; 2047-7; en)] running the embedded opera browser just like the Wii and am unable to use iPlayer on it as I just get an error about not supporting flash express install (it also supports h.264 videos but again I can't view the iPhone/iPod touch version on it).

I own all 3 devices and of them the Archos 605 would be the best device for viewing the iPlayer on my TV (you can use it from a distance with the remote unlike the iPod and it is easier/faster to use the browser on than the Wii, plus it asks if you want to watch a flash video in full screen) so it is a shame I can't use the iPod or Wii version with it.

This is great news for Wii users. However for XBox console owners, there is an iPlayer script which downloads and plays the content, allbeit only on a modded device with XBMC (Xbox Media Centre). Downloaded today and it works a treat!

  • 17.
  • At 10:35 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Chris Phillips wrote:

Not a bad start. The lack of fullscreen option is a little frustrating. Unlike a computer desktop where u can accept watching video in a small window, with a tv you tend to sit across the room so a fullscreen option is really needed to make full use of this.

The quality seems ok. It's similar to watching youtube on the wii, which is suitable for short clips, but difficult to persevere with for long form viewing with the family.

  • 18.
  • At 10:37 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Stephen wrote:

It would be nice if the BBC would allow you to select the version you use. I have another device (Archos 605) running the embedded opera browser just like the Wii and am unable to use iPlayer on it as I just get an error about not supporting flash express install (it also supports h.264 videos but again I can't view the iPhone/iPod touch version on it).

I own all 3 devices and of them the Archos 605 would be the best device for viewing the iPlayer on my TV (you can use it from a distance with the remote unlike the iPod and it is easier/faster to use the browser on than the Wii, plus it asks if you want to watch a flash video in full screen) so it is a shame I can't use the iPod or Wii version with it.

  • 19.
  • At 10:42 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Aris wrote:

Please bring a native iPlayer Wii channel. I tried it today and it works quite well (though the text on the screen was small - perhaps you should consider a different layout and text size for Wii clients), and it would have been nice to optionally expand the video to be full screen (even at the cost of picture quality).

  • 20.
  • At 12:53 AM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • mo Patel wrote:

What about the Radio. Want to listen to Im sorry I havent a clue on my Wii.

  • 21.
  • At 2:35 AM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • Ade wrote:

I think the i-player is a great step in the right direction, but personally I think it's wasted on the wii as I think the platform will be dead in less than 2 years.
What I would like to see from the BBC is the ability to use the BBC's listen again player through other media, I listen to about 10hrs of music a week using the player, but think it is shame the streams can't be accessed via something other than the web, surely the BBC can create a teletext type page with the radio listings on and use the tv remote to select the show you want to listen to, freeview would be a nice way to do it also.
Another the thing the BBC should have done for the last 15 years was to record and sell as cd albums the essential mix show that has had countless top dj's on. I know that you can't stream the shows for more than 7 days due to licensing etc, but surely if the beeb were to record the essential mix show and then sell as a cd, the money from the sales could pay the royalties etc, this could apply to any of the radio shows but I think specifically the essential mix cd's would sell like hot cakes.

  • 22.
  • At 8:41 AM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • David wrote:

Nice to see that you've rolled the iPlayer out on the iPhone, but since, according to news reports at least, the iPhone isn't really that popular in the UK, shouldn't you do the same thing for Windows-based smartphones? They've been around much longer and are definitely (okay, probably) more available. (As you can probably guess, I've got one and would love to get the iPlayer on it.)

Part of the problem is Adobe abandoned their Flash SDK at version 7 in favour of the Flash Lite SDK aimed mostly at mobile devices, and that that doesn't seem to have browser plugins. Flash Lite might prove useful for a dedicated Wii Channel though.

  • 24.
  • At 9:07 AM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • Simon Davenport wrote:

@Ade

Maybe you shouldnt be commenting on the logistics of iplayer when you can't even grasp the basics of freeview.

  • 25.
  • At 9:18 AM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • KBD wrote:

Ade: RE other ways to listen to 'Listen Again' content...Have you looked into buying a wifi internet radio, such as the Acoustic Energy version? reciva.com is a good resource to find out more. We've got one in our kitchen and we use it all the time - you can set up streams and podcasts as well as get all the BBC on demand stuff.

Back to the main topic - only last week I was trying to get iplayer working via the wii, so really impressed the BBC have done this so quickly. Only bugbear is not being able to get rid of the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. It really is a great start though. Well done, BBC!

  • 26.
  • At 10:03 AM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • Stu Jones wrote:

I already watch IPlayer through my Lounge Widescreen LCD TV (as it has a standard PC monitor "PC-IN" connection, it also does DVI-D) and it does work very well and because the TV is connected to the PC I also watch all the other "On-Demand" catch-up services provided by other TV channels.

I must admit that my PC does not exactly have a media spec e.g. it has the Intel Integrated Graphics chip-set and a regular sound card, but the quality is very much there!

I would like to ask, is there a way in getting IPlayer to play proper widescreen though, as I still get the picture enclosed in a Letterbox, is it a setting within Windows Media Player or is it that I don't have a beefy Graphics Card?

  • 27.
  • At 10:38 AM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • Crustycris wrote:

This is fantastic, but am I the only one having performance issues. iPlayer is seamless on my PC, but on the Wii it freezes every 15 seconds or so...is there a technical team to formally feedback these types of issues? The compatible videos on youtube stream with no problem so does seem to specific to the iplayer. And I agree with the above post, it would be good if this was extended to the radio player.

I use my Xbox 360's built in Media Extender and can watch BBCi programmes through that, in full screen.

THe other benefits of this set-up is that I get all my Sky Channels, all my music and photographs, plus downloadable services through one interface. Admittidly, you also need a media center or a Windows Vista PC with a TV tuner, but if any of your readers have one of those, and an Xbox 360, they're good to go.

It's so good that my technophonic parents now have the same set up.

  • 29.
  • At 10:57 AM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

PS3 does Flash7 too, and has much more horsepower that the Wii, so will be upto the task of decoding the Flash7 stuff better.

Looking forward to this on PS3 too.

  • 30.
  • At 11:50 AM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • Dave wrote:

@KBD: You can set the tool bar to "auto hide" in the options menu.

A positive step in the right direction in terms of what the Wii can and cannot do. I'd prefer a dedicated channel rather than bookmarking but that's a minor gripe.

What a time to release this info - at exactly the same time as you are getting flak for bandwidth streaming putting the squeeze on ISP profit margins. Isn't this going to exacerbate the situation (especially if you do roll out the service to other platforms)?

I may be wrong but the trancoding of the iPlayer content seems to infer that the more date needs to be piped to get the service to the Wii at a suitable level of quality? Expect Tiscali et al to moan if that is the case,

  • 32.
  • At 1:21 PM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • Liam wrote:

This is a brilliant idea and its great to see the BBC step in the right direction with this.

However the reality of the current beta is a bit disappointing. No full screen mode and not very good quality, even my 2meg connection couldn't stream it properly (nothing else running on my broadband at that time).

So at the moment I'm not sure I see the benefit of using my Wii over my computer, as it stands now I'd rather stick my laptop on the coffee table and watch downloaded programs.

At the moment it doesn't look like Nintendo is pushing a new version of Opera with Flash 8 or 9 support (see blog http://my.opera.com/haavard/blog/2007/04/13/wii-browser-out-but-why-flash-7-and-not-8-or-9 - its a year old but comments have been made by someone on the opera team who made the wii version in the last few weeks), so it would seem that is out of the question in the near future.

Ideally there would be a seperate iPlayer channel on the Wii, but I don't imagine this comes cheap! Also a download option would be sweet, but I'm not sure about the Wii's capability to do this, as it seems it can't read data directly off SD cards.

Anyway keep up the good work and I look forward to what the future holds!

  • 33.
  • At 6:03 PM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • James Lovell wrote:

I think this is great. Only the other day I was looking at a way of displaying my laptop display on my TV. But as it is an older laptop this seemed difficult.

Well done BBC, keep it up.

Having said that, I have noticed one thing. It could be a setting on my Wii console, one I do not remember setting.

The first programme I watched was Traffic Cops. Less than a minute into the programme there was swearing. While this is not a problem for me, I can see problems for children or familes. Maybe something for the BBC to think about.

  • 34.
  • At 8:45 PM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • Crustycris wrote:

This is fantastic, but am I the only one having performance issues. iPlayer is seamless on my PC, but on the Wii it freezes every 15 seconds or so...is there a technical team to formally feedback these types of issues? The compatible videos on youtube stream with no problem so does seem to specific to the iplayer. And I agree with the above post, it would be good if this was extended to the radio player.

  • 35.
  • At 11:11 PM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

A nice start, I recommend hiding the toolbar and also setting the zoom mode to manual rather than auto, you can then use the b button to centre the screen and pretty much get full screen albeit with a slight bit cropped on the Wii because of the resolution BUT its very blocky. Can we have it streaming with an optional higher bitrate please (some of us have 20Mbps pipes) and auto fullscreen would be nice.

Hello James Lovell,

I've had a look and there was no audible swearing, it was censored out as it was a pre-watershed programme. But if you are concerned about kids watching inappropriate programmes, we offer Guidance labelling – if this is switched on on the Wii, then children won't be able to watch any programme with this label.

Hope this puts your mind at rest,

Jonathan

  • 37.
  • At 5:12 PM on 11 Apr 2008,
  • Scott wrote:

OK, it's good, but without the option of full screen it's really not all that! A dedicated channel would be a great way to get around this issue so that the video can be displayed without the browser bar etc.

Even if it wasn't great quality I would still prefer full screen mode to having to see half the website surrounding the picture.

Don't get me wrong this is a good step in the right direction and I hope to see more soon!

  • 38.
  • At 1:43 AM on 12 Apr 2008,
  • RitchieB wrote:

Strange, Microsoft places styling restrictions on a 360 port of iPlayer, yet they have officially declared that 3rd party Vista Media Center plugins should have their own unique styling and interface, segregating it from the MS portion of Media Center.

I am still waiting for the obvious step of the BBC and others crafting a plugin for Media Center that will utilise the 10' interface. I would certainly be customer number 1! Is there any word on the rumoured possibility of this happening?

  • 39.
  • At 11:29 AM on 12 Apr 2008,
  • PaulS wrote:

@Scott

I downloaded the internet channel last night and with a bit of tweaking got it playing full screen on a 28" TV, not great quality but it's only in the beta stage for now.

If you change your options you can hide the browser bar and then you can zoom in on the page so the video fills your screen.

Well done BBC and Nintendo, can't wait for the improved version!!

I'm not sure what the fuss has been about really. Sure it takes a little extra effort to encode into Flash7 and it must have been some work at the Beeb to get the support for that. OH but why was it let down at the last hurdle by a woeful browser presentation. I've seen the job specs at the BEEB for UI this and UI that, product managers, code managers, head of customer presentation and all that so who let this go out? It's hard to use, requires excessive scrolling left and right, tricky to zoom it to a nice size for viewing. It strikes me that there probably isn't actually any Wii's in the development section. Someone has emulated it on a PC by looking at the height and width perhaps?

The way the press reads Beeb have done a deal with Wii to launch this, but in fact its just a website URL.

I've had my own channel up for ages using Sorenson to do the flash and a freebie flash player and I watch that on the Wii and I didn't have to deal with Nintendo but I did have to make it fit 800.

Perhaps the ploy was to just throw up a version and see if there was some takeup and then make a proper one later? I'm struggling to get the wife to look at this version and use it and she won't be back yet.

Post a comment

Please note Name and E-mail are required.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them. Please note that submitting a comment is not the same as making a formal complaint, for which you can use the BBC Complaints page.

On occasion, you may experience problems when leaving a comment. We are working on a solution to this - you can find more details here.

Required
Required (not displayed)
 
    

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites