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Video game consoles do double-duty as video viewing machines

video game consolesIn between smashing bad guys in the latest video game, people watch video using their game consoles. A lot of video content actually, according to a report by Parks associates. Their study only looks at the US, but they found video game consoles (Wii, Xbox, and PlayStation for the most part) to be the main method people watch over-the-top (OTT) video.

OTT video is any third party movie or TV delivery service that isn’t directly connected with your ISP. Netflix, LOVEFilm (now Amazon Prime Instant Video), and Hulu are prime examples of OTT video companies. Many of these services have their own set-top boxes, and also provide access directly on connected TVs. But in the US at least, consumers prefer using their gaming console.

There’s a sticking point though, if you’re going to use your gaming console for viewing video. Generally speaking, the console needs to have a supported app for the video service. Most of the big OTT services provide the apps, but not all video game consoles are supported. For example, the Wii U BBC iPlayer app, or channel as Nintendo calls it, has not yet been released even though the console has been available for two years.  The latest word is that it’s coming soon, but no definitive date.

As an alternative, you could launch the Wii U browser and see if you can get the videos to play that way. Nintendo claims their browser is HTML5 compatible, so any video in that format should work. But sadly, most video doesn’t work. And that goes for the other major consoles as well. Internet Explorer on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 browser are also finicky. The newer version of the browser in the Xbox One isn’t much better.

I know in our household, we stream most of the online video we watch as a family (movies and TV) through our Wii U. There are some shows we just can’t watch that way yet though. I’ve even tried following the more convoluted instructions that abound on how to make the Wii U browser play video better. None of it ever worked for me. Similar instructions are available for the Xbox, but after trying so hard on the Wii U I don’t have the energy to try it again on another system.

So while we can watch virtually any show on our PCs, or even iPads, we can’t enjoy them together in our living room unless the content is included on a service with an app. I’m hopeful someday one of the console companies will realise what an advantage they would have if their browser could offer the same experience as PC, but on the big TVs. I don’t want to buy into just one brand’s set top box. I don’t want to have to hook my laptop up to my TV. I don’t want to buy a brand new smart TV with limited apps. I could buy the relatively inexpensive Chromecast device and be able to watch more content, but I’m not convinced yet that Google’s plug-in adaptor for TVs will survive in the market.

Streaming using gaming consoles is convenient, when the content is supported. And watching video should be convenient. That’s why it ranks so high among US users. I haven’t seen any similar data for the UK, but I’d guess that without the iPlayer, there’d be a smaller portion of viewers using gaming consoles for online video.

How do you watch online video on your TV? A smart TV, video game console, Chromecast or something else?

Oliver Burt

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