Netflix will officially become a media juggernaut this week, after news broke over the weekend that it is about to sign hit UK TV show Top Gear to a multi-year contract.
Ousted BBC star Jeremy Clarkson is already on board while co-starts Richard Hammond and James May are “very close” to turning down a $7 million BBC offer to return to Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson.
The two co-stars have recently hinted that they would not do a show without their former colleague, after Clarkson’s BBC contract was not renewed following a “fracas” with a producer.
BBC director general Tony Hall’s decision in March to suspend both the show and the star has been universally unpopular and now looks set to hit the BBC where it hurts: Ratings.
Top Gear is the number one rated show in the UK, thanks to the amazing chemistry of the three stars. Instead of the BBC, the trio will sign a “groundbreaking and incredibly lucrative” Netflix deal.
“Flattering though it is to be offered huge sums there’ll be no going back,” a source said of the stars’ decision. “It wouldn’t feel right and their heart wouldn’t be in it. They’ve always said they come as a team and that hasn’t changed.
“They are all very excited at the prospect of having total editorial control over their new show, to make it and get it distributed. They would stand to earn much, more more than they would with the BBC.”
“Me and Hammond with a surrogate Jeremy is a non-starter, it just wouldn’t work,” May stated in April. “That would be lame, or ‘awks’ as young people say. It has to be the three of us. You can’t just put a surrogate Jeremy in and expect it to carry on. It would be forced. I don’t believe they would be stupid enough to try that.”
“It is serious and unfortunate what happened but there is no ban on Jeremy being on the BBC,” said BBC2 controllor Kim Shillinglaw. “Conversations are ongoing with James and Richard about a whole variety of projects at the BBC.”
Yet Netflix has deep pockets and will likely out-bid the BBC. It also offers significantly more freedom than the BBC, which is a publicly funded broadcaster. As such the network faces intense public and political scrutiny which greatly impacts creative freedom.
Should Netflix successfully sign the show, it will become the most popular content offering yet to hit the web TV network.
It will also put everyone – cable companies, hollywood movie studio and tech firms like Apple and Google – on notice that Netflix aims to replace traditional TV. Period.
It also demonstrates that Netflix’s ambitions are fully global. Top Gear has hundreds of millions of fans worldwide, making it not only the most popular but also the most international show on the network.