BBC bring iPlayer to the TV via Wii

Viewers will be able to watch programmes via the BBC's phenomenally successful catch-up TV service, iPlayer, on their ordinary TV sets thanks to an agreement with Nintendo. It is the first broadcaster to exploit games consoles in this way, although the possibility has been aired since 2005.

This is a landmark first for the BBC: Sky subscribers can download programmes to Sony's Playstation Portable, a handheld device that incorporates a screen, while BT plans to supply Microsoft's Xbox 360 console as a set-top box for its IPTV service, BT Vision, later this year. However, there are 2.4 million Wii devices in British homes - that is, more than X-boxes and PSPs put together.

Now Nintendo Wii owners can download or stream BBC programmes via broadband, through the Wii which simply plugs into a TV set without involving complicated specialist browsers.

The move is being hailed by the BBC itself as bringing TV out of the bedroom and study back into the living room and the core of family life.

Peter Barrett, chief technology officer of Microsoft's TV division, told the Financial Times that services based on its Mediaroom platform, such as BT Vision, would offer advantages over standard broadcasters: "The big transition is to take advantage of a connected TV on a two-way network with social networking built into that experience."

However, the iPlayer will soon offer personalised recommendations based on viewing habits, and is working on a version of the iPlayer's user interface for Virgin Media subscribers.

The most interesting aspect of all, though, is that the broadband provider is of little consequence in the BBC/Nintendo tie-up beyond acting as a bit pipe. It is an admirable demonstration of how easy it is to cut the operator out of the action and value chain altogether. It also looks like a far more successful combination than BT Vision and it will be interesting to see what kind of impression France Telecom/Orange's IPTV makes when it launches later this year - see story below. It is hard to imagine though that it will rival the clout of the BBC and Nintendo Wii combined.