Playon.tv on the Wii: Not a Cable Killer
There’s been many more advancements in Internet/TV convergence recently. More and more video and TV content is available by web, and there are more opportunities to access that data via consoles, PC’s, and even the television itself.
Netflix is already quite popular for users who want to watch streaming movies instantly on their television via the PC or console. Netflix just recently came out with Wii capability, and there’s been a lot written about that already.
The downside of Netflix is that although it has a lot of movies available, the TV shows that are available are usually older – much older than what you find on online sites like Hulu. If you missed last week’s episode of 24 for example, Netflix can’t help you. That’s where Playon.tv steps in.
Playon.tv is an application you install on your PC that lets you watch online streaming video on the Wii from sites like Hulu, CBS, NBC, NickJr and so on; the Wii lacks this capability on it’s own, so this is a huge step in terms of functionality for the system. Playon comes with a free 14 day trial – no credit card required – and is very easy to set up. After the trial, the first year is $40 and then $20/year after that, which is cheaper than Netflix over the course of a year.
Once installed, you open the Internet channel on your Wii and, with your PC running the program and your Internet connection active, surf over to playon.tv. You then get a series of icons with channels you’ve loaded (channels are constantly being added with varying degrees of success). The default channels include not only Hulu but Netflix, so you can access your Netflix queue right from within the program.
The video below is not from me, but gives a good overview.
Without going into detail about setup, I’ll go straight to my impressions.
Well, it’s disappointing. Watching Hulu on my desktop PC is much better than on the Wii, as the Wii’s resolution is worse (480p) and the wireless-g network is less than optimal for streaming video. The quality was generally fair, but never great. The on-screen text is rather small and hard to read, but I have a rather small TV so a big screen TV would be easier to read. Also, Playon.tv lacks a search function, so finding a title takes a lot of searching through menus. Plus there’s no guarantee that full episodes are available.
That said, it does work. Right now my kids are watching classic Speed Racer cartoons and don’t mind the quality at all. I didn’t have any buffering pauses and video load times were relatively short. Plus, given that it does add a significant amount of functionality for a low fee (less than $4/month tops), you might find it worthwhile. Playon.tv also works with other consoles like the PS3, and other reviewers say the experience is much better in terms of picture quality.