Why the iPlayer is on the Wii, not Xbox 360 or PS3

The iPlayer is now available on the Wii - though the addition of a specific iPlayer channel would help

Why is the iPlayer on the Wii and not on other consoles? Because Nintendo didn't want the BBC to jump through hoops. We should have known!

Quoted by BBC technology editor Darren Waters in a dot.life blog post, head of BBC Future Media and Technology Erik Huggers said it was down to Sony and Microsoft wanting to 'control' the iPlayer.

"If you want to get on the PlayStation or Xbox, they want control of the look, the feel and the experience; they want it done within their shop, and their shop only," he said. The Beeb is making the iPlayer work through the Opera browser that forms the Wii’s Internet Channel. First reports we've received say that the iPlayer experience is very beta, but that's to be expected, we'd say.

Part of this is down to the video encoding. As well as encoding all 400 hours of weekly iPlayer video again for the high quality H.264 iPhone streams, it's now having to do the same for the Wii - but with poorer quality than the Flash encoding on the PC. Why? Because the Wii only supports Flash 7.

"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," explains the BBC's Anthony Rose. That means you'll probably need 1Mbps broadband even though the video actually looks worse than that on a PC. "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," adds Rose.

Open platform

As Waters points out in a rather speculative blog post talking around Huggers’ words, neither the PlayStation 3 nor the Xbox 360 support the version of Flash used by the iPlayer - just like the Wii. Indeed, the Xbox doesn’t have a browser, just Xbox Live.

"Reading between the lines it would seem Microsoft was unwilling to work with the BBC unless it was given more control over how the content was accessed and presented inside Xbox Live, its walled garden online service."

But Waters thinks the iPlayer will grace the PS3 sometime soon. "It seems more puzzling for Sony to take this approach. It has said often that PS3 is an ‘open platform’ and all it would take is a small update to let gamers access iPlayer in the web browser.

"I think this is almost inevitable - and so Sony gamers shouldn't be too distraught."


Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site T3.com. Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.