In a major coup for Amazon, it has finalized a three-year deal with the stars and producer of the BBC hit, Top Gear. Amazon Prime Video beat out other suitors, including ITV, Hulu and Netflix, despite bookmakers’ predictions that Netflix had the edge. In fact, Netflix was a 6-4 favorite over Amazon or Hulu. Speculation had been mounting over the team’s next move, and the deal with Amazon comes as a surprise to many media analysts, who had considered the streaming service an outside contender for Jeremy Clarkson’s signature. It is not yet apparent as to why Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May chose Amazon over its competitors, but one can speculate that Amazon made a deal the trio could not refuse.
Top Gear, one of the BBC’s most watched shows, aired on the British channel for 21 seasons. The show generated over $78 million for BBC Worldwide. Its stars, Clarkson, Hammond and May won millions of viewers’ hearts with their personalities, automotive knowledge and camaraderie. Because of that goodwill, Amazon officials are not worried about not being allowed to take the Top Gear name with them. Former Top Gear executive producer, Andy William stated that, “[t]he show went global because of Richard, James and Jeremy, and grew at a time when channel loyalty, schedules, all those pillars of traditional TV watching, have fallen away . . . [They] are looking for a global platform.”
The move to Amazon comes after Clarkson was abruptly fired by BBC after he punched one of the show’s producers in the face over a hot meal. Specifically, the producer failed to get the star a hot dinner after a long day of filming, and the two got into a brawl. Although BBC made very generous offers to Hammond and May to remain with Top Gear, the two stated that no amount of money would persuade them to stay with BBC without Clarkson. Hence the move to another platform.
Amazon is attempting to take on Netflix by airing more original content and attracting major projects. Jay Marine, vice-president of Amazon Prime Video in Europe stated that, “[c]ustomers told us they wanted to see the [Top Gear] team back on screen, and [Amazon] is excited to make that happen. . . Millions of Prime members are already enjoying [its] ground-breaking original shows. [It] can’t wait to see what Jeremy, Richard, James and the team will create in what is sure to be one of the most globally anticipated shows of 2016. . .[Amazon’s] approach is to give programme makers creative freedom to be innovative and make the shows they want to make. This is just the start, [viewers] should expect to see more world-leading talent and the biggest shows on Prime Video.”
Amazon’s mission statement seems to be extremely similar to that of Netflix. It is likely that competition between the two companies will heat up as both try to attract the entertainment industry’s top stars and talent.