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As the habit towards cord cutting expands, so more and more devices are offering media streaming options. Some are set-top boxes like the Roku. The Amazon Fire TV Stick and Fire TV are other good examples. You might prefer an Android-based box, or even a DIY solution, combining the Raspberry Pi with Kodi.
And then there’s your game console. Many consoles are furnished with apps for popular streaming services, but what about the Nintendo Wii U, and its predecessor the Wii?
Remarkably, these older devices enjoy the support of several big-name subscription streaming providers, and the Nintendo Wii can be connected to any kind of TV.
Watching TV on Your Nintendo Wii U
If you want to start watching streamed TV on your Nintendo Wii U, you have several options available.
I’ve heard accounts of Netflix appearing on Wii U consoles as a pre-installed option. True or not, this underlines its importance in the streaming subscription TV landscape. If Netflix isn’t already installed on your system, you can download it free from the eShop. When using for the first time you can either sign in, or start a free trial. Performance-wise, the experience is okay, but playback caps at 1080p.
Perhaps the main opponent to Netflix, you can also enjoy the programming from Amazon Instant Video on your Wii U. The usual Amazon performance issues (occasionally videos don’t load without hitting back and trying again) occur, but otherwise get ready to enjoy everything Amazon has on offer.
3. Hulu Plus
The best alternative to Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus has been available on the Wii U since 2015. As with the other apps, it runs well, and streams Hulu’s original shows, as well as its collection of films and TV shows, to your living room.
You may not be aware of Crunchyroll. This is a video streaming service for fans of Japanese anime and Asian drama, offering over 25,000 videos in HD. Subtitles are included. Some shows are available the same day as they’re aired in Japan!
Crunchyroll offers a free plan with ads and standard-definition streaming. If you want to upgrade, you can look into the 14-day trial membership of the Premium service.
Also available is YouTube, the almost ubiquitous media option. Offering all the features you would expect, YouTube on the Wii U is, however, a little slow to launch. Once set up (you’ll need to authenticate your account via the YouTube activation site), you can log in and see your subscriptions and recommendations.
You remotely control the YouTube app via the Wii U GamePad. Use this screen to choose a video, then watch your content on the TV.
Anything Not Working on the Wii U?
Everything above still works great on the Wii U. Surely there isn’t anything that has ground to a halt, so soon in the Wii U’s lifespan…?
Released for U.K. users on the Nintendo eShop in 2015, the Wii U enjoyed a good BBC iPlayer experience. However, that is no longer the case. As of January 2017, the app no longer works, with the BBC citing the end of its deal with Nintendo as the reason.
Fortunately, most non-U.K. users are unaffected by this.
Installing Streaming TV Apps on Your Wii U
You can install all these apps by visiting the Nintendo eShop on the Wii U. Simply tap the shopping bag icon, then scroll down until you find the section for Apps. Tap the header link, and scroll down further. You’ll find YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, and Netflix listed together.
These are all free to install (of course, you’ll need to input your account details, or start a free trial with any paid services), and shouldn’t take too long to download. As they’re quite small, these apps won’t take up much space on your Wii U’s memory.
Watch TV on Your Nintendo Wii (Until 2019)
As the Nintendo Wii has fallen out of use, so online video providers have cut back on their services. Unfortunately, while some streaming apps still work, their days are numbered.
The Wii Shop Channel was launched in 2006, but as of January 31 2019, no more purchases (free, or paid/bought with points) will be possible. Beyond media streaming, this also impacts the Wii U, as its backwards compatibility enables users to play older Wii games and access the Wii Shop Channel.
This of course means that its timeless muzak will also die…
Seriously though, once January 2019 is over, the end is nigh. Make sure to migrate your data to the Wii U before this date, as Nintendo will shut down the servers later in 2019.
You’ll still be able to get your Wii online. But as for media streaming apps, what still works on the Nintendo Wii?
Netflix: This was the first streaming service I used on the Nintendo Wii, and it still works well. Admittedly, it’s a bit slower than it was, and there’s no guarantee it will last forever. However, if you want to “Netflix and Chill” between games of Super Mario Galaxy, it works.
Amazon Instant Video: With a Nintendo Wii, you can enjoy the benefits of an Amazon Instant Video account, and the programming and boxsets it brings with it.
Hulu Plus: As with the other streaming apps listed here, you’ll find the Hulu Plus app in the Wii Shop Channel.
As of 2017, this still works on the Wii. You can install and sign into the channel, or start a free trial, without any trouble. Visit the Wii Shop Channel from the Wii Menu, select the Wii Channels category, and find the service you’d like to install.
What Isn’t Working on the Wii?
Sadly, some services have already abandoned the original Wii.
BBC iPlayer: The U.K. broadcaster’s famously underachieving media streaming service ran from 2009 to 2015. Like the Wii U version, if you own the app from a previous installation it will run, but you won’t find any shows.
WiiMC: You could once turn your Wii into a media center using the WiiMC software, but sadly this option no longer seems to work. Although you can install it after cracking your Nintendo Wii and installing Homebrew, few of the options are reliable, and WiiMC itself hasn’t been updated since 2013.
YouTube: Although officially retired, some users have reported that YouTube still works, but only if you’re not signed into your account. This means that you won’t get your usual subscription updates and recommendations, but search and playback function fine. The result is a slightly hamstrung YouTube experience, which is bound to get worse.
You can safely expect this pattern to continue. As platforms slip into obscurity, developers will have no need to maintain media streaming apps for them. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives to the Wii and the Wii U, whether you’re looking at a console, or a dedicated media center. We’ve compared the media capabilities of the Xbox One and PS4, if you’re interested.
What Do You Watch On?
As of 2017, the state of video streaming services on Nintendo game consoles isn’t as bad as you may expect. Sure, the Wii has problems with YouTube, and BBC iPlayer is dead, but the Wii U has access to everything you could hope to watch online, even though it’s basically a dead system at this point.
The real problem for Nintendo media streaming is the Switch. With no media streaming apps available, it seems wise to keep hold of your Wii or Wii U until your favorite services are available on the Switch. Let’s just hope that media apps are available for the Switch before the Wii Shop Channel finally closes in 2019! In the meantime, learn how to share your Nintendo Switch gameplay online.
Image Credit: Nomadsoul1/Depositphotos