Nintendo Turns Wii U Game Controller Into TV Remote

After a one-month delay, Nintendo on Thursday expects to launch a service for its new Wii U game console in North America designed to let users find programming in pay TV listings and online video sources, and control their cable or satellite set-top box.

Nintendo’s TVii (pronounced “TV”) service merges multiple content sources, such as a Comcast channel lineup or Hulu Plus subscription, letting Wii U owners use the GamePad touchscreen controller to find and launch video content.

To use the feature, users indicate which services they currently subscribe to, including the channel lineup in their cable package and video-on-demand service subscriptions, as part of the setup process.

Nintendo TVii is set to launch in the U.S. and Canada on Dec. 20. At launch, the service will support cable and satellite providers in both regions, as well as direct integration with Amazon Instant Video and Hulu Plus subscriptions in the U.S. The company did not provide a complete list of pay TV providers and set-tops TVii is supposed to work with.

In addition, Nintendo expects to integrate TVii with Netflix subscriptions and TiVo DVRs in early 2013 for customers in the U.S. Currently Wii U provides access to a Netflix app that’s separate from TVii.

After using the TVii, “you’ll never look at your TV the same way again,” Nintendo of America president and COO Reggie Fils-Aime said in announcing the feature. “Nintendo TVii shows how the integrated second screen of the GamePad can also transform and enhance the TV viewing experience.”

TVii also links into social networking sites, to let users comment and share on Nintendo’s Miiverse, Facebook and Twitter using the GamePad. In addition, the GamePad provides entertainment-related info, including cast details, movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes and live sports scores and stats.

The Wii U, which went on sale in North America on Nov. 18, is available in two models: one with 8 Gigabytes of storage for $300 and the other with 32 GB and additional accessories for $350. Both include the GamePad accessory. Originally, Nintendo had expected to introduce TVii when the Wii U shipped.

According to Nintendo, the TVii feature enforces the Wii U’s parental controls with additional TV-specific options. Each member of the family can create a different viewing profile.