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Interview: Virginia Mouseler of The Wit

Virginia Mouseler

What is The Wit?

It is a research company that publishes weekly and monthly reports about all the new TV shows around the world, with a searchable database of 80,000 TV programmes from around the world. You can search for keywords, or by country, genre or production company. You can also watch full length videos of any TV show online. There is a weekly email report with news of new pilots and projects, and a monthly report on new shows aired in 35 countries. Subscriptions are tailor-made to your needs, so you can subscribe to specific genres.

What’s your background?

I was a psychoanalyst and my partner Bertrand Villegas, was a journalist but we both had an interest in TV programmes from around the world.

Why did it start?

Bertrand had the ambition to read every TV guide in the world. We began collecting information as a hobby and then started a newsletter that was distributed to broadcasters and production companies. The Wit was born when a large broadcaster asked us to do some specific research

How long ago?

The Wit started in 1996.

Where is it distributed?

All around the world, in approximately 50 countries.

How do you get your information?

The Wit has an extensive network of independent programme spotters who send in information on every single programme from the smallest documentary in the smallest country to the biggest format in the biggest country. They make no distinction as every programme is of interest to someone somewhere. Their reports are objective, it’s not their job to be TV critics.

Can I subscribe?

Of course, but the service is designed for the use of companies rather than individuals.

How much is it?

Every subscription is tailor-made – you can just subscribe to game shows or telenovelas if that’s your area of interest – so the cost varies depending on the individual package.

Where in the world should we look to find the best formats at the moment?

Good ideas can come from anywhere. That’s what we always believed at The Wit at that’s why we are always looking for new countries to look after! I would say that the UK and The Netherlands are prepared to take risks with original formats.

What, if any, opportunities in programming does the current economic crisis bring?

Crises trigger creativity  and new ways of working. Any crisis gives an opportunity to react and adapt to it. For example, the crisis in education has resulted in a couple of good shows from Sweden (Class of ’07) and Denmark (Skolen) in which the worst class in the school was turned into the best one in months by using new ways of teaching. The subject was very relatable for the audience. The credit crisis should bring similar opportunities.

What are your top tips for spotting a new foreign format?

A format will translate well to another country if it is a very simple concept and universally relatable. Anything that deals with an aspect of everyday life is good, such as relationships or shopping – or weight loss! Work is another universal topic but it is hard to make a successful factual programme about work. People don’t want to spend all day at work and then sit down in the evening and watch a programme about work. However, viewers do like comedies about the workplace, such as The Office and The IT Crowd.

Where do I get more information about The Wit?

Go to www.thewit.com or join  The Wit & Friends on Facebook

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