It took a month, but Nintendo finally released TVii for the Wii U. This feature on Nintendo’s new game system turns the Wii U gamepad into a touch-screen remote and smart program guide that incorporates online services into live television for following your favorite shows, movies, and sports teams. I spent some time with TVii, and while it’s not a complete or polished service, I was impressed by how smoothly it organizes your television.
The TVii setup process is easy and direct, but it can take some time adding all of your favorite content to the system. First, you need to configure the Wii U to work as a remote control for your TV and set-top box. This is a simple process that you can go through in the Settings menu before you turn on TVii. You need to enter your TV and set-top box manufacturers, perform a few tests to make sure the gamepad is using the right remote codes, and you’re ready to go.
TVii then asks you for your ZIP code and cable or satellite provider. This lets the Wii U know what program guides to use to determine when shows are on and what channels are available at what numbers. Because TVii works by using the gamepad as a remote control, it changes channels by manually entering the number for the channel as a remote control code. There is no actual connection between the Wii U and your set-top box besides the remote, and the interactivity is little different from using an iPad remote app and a remote accessory, like the Griffin Remote.
Once your cable or satellite provider is entered, you can start teaching the Wii U your favorite shows, movies, channels, and sports teams. Shows, movies, and channels appear as a short list of popular choices, which you can click on or off to add to your favorites list. You’ll probably spend most of your time at the far end of the scrolling menu, where a magnifying glass on an empty panel sits. This is the search function, and it lets you search for your favorite shows and movies. Most shows and movies appear with their own graphic for easy organization, but there were several mysterious grey panels scattered through my searches that I couldn’t identify without loading. For the majority of shows and movies I looked for, though, the gamepad showed big, colorful panels that identified them clearly.
Channels are also organized by popular choices first, so if you want to set more targeted channels like the Food Network or the Hub you need to manually enter the channel number in the search menu. Be careful to make sure you enter the HD channel number so you get the most out of the feature.
Finally, sports teams can be selected from NFL, NBA, and NCAA basketball and football choices, presumably because these are the active sports in December. We’ll find out if TVii gets baseball teams in the spring. Adding favorite teams is as easy as adding favorite channels and movies, without the search option. Instead, each team is organized alphabetically in each conference.