StumbleUpon + Wii = Killer App for New TV?

Stumblee video on WiiAfter an hour of laughing my ass off to a dozen monkey videos, I pretty much decided I’d just happened into the next killer app for online videos since YouTube itself. Launched last Feburary (Liz blogged about it then) Stumble.TV is StumbleUpon’s version of StumbleVideo, except tailored for the Wii. Once you direct your Wii’s Opera browser to the site, videos start playing on your TV, one after the other. You get to choose from several channels showing thousands of videos, and like the Web version of Stumble, you can give each one an up or down rating, using the Wii’s controller button. (See pic.) Your Wii-based ratings are cookied, and if you have a StumbleUpon account, they’re stored there; you can rate without an account, but after 150 votes, a dialog box pops up and suggests that you register.

Right now the site is showing some 200,000 of the Stumbled community’s very highest-ranked videos, mostly from YouTube (with some from Metacafe, Google Video, and MySpace) and so when you hit Play, you get a stream of quality content on your television. When I got around to trying it out recently, I was expecting a cute widget; instead, it suggests a whole new way of watching TV— like a folksonomic TiVo, or channel surfing on steroids.

As a technology, Stumble.TV solves at least two problems that have been impeding online videos as a full-fledged medium. Everyone loves watching a good one, but digging through so much chaff takes time. And everyone, I think it’s fair to say, would rather watch videos on their couch, than at their desk. As to why I think this is primed to go YouTube big, consider how genuinely huge the Wii’s install base is expected to be. According to a Merrill Lynch analyst, by 2011 it’ll be in 30% of households in the U.S.. With enough hooks and added functionality, I can easily see Stumble-for-Wii grabbing much of that audience.

But does StumbleUpon, which was bought by eBay earlier this year, know what a potential disruptor they’ve got here? A few days ago I chatted with co-founder and Chief Product Officer Garrett Camp, to get his take.

Whipped together with Ajax over a few weeks, the interface is customized for the Wii, but the underlying technology remains Stumble Video, Camp tells me. The company was looking for a way of porting that service onto something other than a computer, and he says, “the Wii was an obvious first choice because the browser was built in and wireless was built in.” StumbleUpon currently has about 4 million users, a million of whom use the Video channel, a fraction of that who use the Wii interface. (He declines to give concrete user numbers, but then, they haven’t been promoting it much since the February release.) Talking with Camp, my strong sense is that they see their Wii spin-off primarily a test for other platforms (Camp mentioned iPhone as a future possibility), not as an end in itself. When I told Garrett how much the Wii’s install base had grown since February, from roughly 2 million to about 16 million (according to VG Chartz), he seemed genuinely surprised.

In any case, they’re planning to add more video feeds to the Wii service, as long they’re embeddable. “We’ve been contacted by pretty much every video provider”, he says. “Long-term we think video is going to be a big thing.” They’re planning to add their entire archive of Stumbles to it soon. “Once you see it come online,” Garrett Camp tells me, “it’ll be a completely different experience.” I have to agree with him there.

See also: Our recap of our NewTeeVee Live search and discovery face-off, where Camp and StumbleUpon were the crowd favorite.

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