Summary:

The BBC is launching a version of its iPlayer TV catch-up for Nintendo’s Wii console, the broadcaster announced with the game maker at MipTV…

The BBC is launching a version of its iPlayer TV catch-up for Nintendo’s Wii console, the broadcaster announced with the game maker at MipTV. The service will be offered as a beta via the console’s Opera-powered Internet Channel web browser at the regular web address, even though Nintendo will next month enable dedicated third-party channels via its WiiWare programme. Wii had previously been unable to run iPlayer due to its out-of-date version of Flash, so the BBC is re-encoding shows for Flash 7.

It’s the latest platform for the iPlayer brand as the BBC continues its £131 million programme to digitise production and multi-platform output. An iPhone version was released last month, one will appear on Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) in May, a Nokia (NYSE: NOK) N95 version is due and it’s thought the BBC could offer the service through iTunes now that iTunes Movie Rentals has added expiry windows to the software.

- Traffic: The BBC also announced iPlayer got 17.2 million streams and downloads in March and has seen over 42 million views since its Christmas launch, marking a 25 percent month-on-month growth in usage. Weekly users hit 1.1 million (up from January’s 750,000) and daily hits reached 550,000 (from January’s 360,000).

- Net neutrality: The network traffic growth is continuing to ruffle a few ISP feathers. Ashley Highfield tried to find industry consensus on the issue when he wrote a manifesto on the subject last week, but this morning’s Today programme (listen here) again kicked up the supposed antipathy. Tiscali’s strategy head Simon Gunter: “The question is about whether we invest in extra capacity or go to the consumer and ask them to pay a BBC tax.”

Analysis…

Highfield won’t entertain the “tax” idea: “I don’t think that’s what the BBC is funded to do. I really think that the BBC should be there to create great content, to get it in to the network and that the broadband service providers should get it to people’s homes – the BBC shouldn’t get involved in that end of it.”

Not that the BBC hasn’t got involved with distribution before, of course – it’s a founding partner in both Freeview and FreeSat; once upon a time, it even made a consumer computer. Certainly, the BBC picked P2P for its iPlayer app to reduce distribution costs in line with lower-than-hoped-for public funding – but online, the notion it should pick up the ISPs’ tab would create a perverse economic model, not least when so many other services (Joost, Babelgum, 4OD, Sky Anytime) are using the same method.

YouTube is still massively more popular than iPlayer yet the ISPs do not appear to have requested a “Google (NSDQ: GOOG) tax” (true, the P2P iPlayer download app is more bandwidth intensive than YouTube’s lo-fi Flash videos, but use of iPlayer’s Flash version outnumbers use of the app by eight times). All of this only serves to hasten the importance of Ofcom’s labouring effort to create a policy framework around “next-generation” networks. Virgin Media and BT (NYSE: BT) may be building 50Mbps ad 24Mbps networks respectively, but the all-important BT is unlikely at present to open its future net to rivals, as it did with Openeach, without reassurances it can recoup its infrastructure investment.

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