Amazon’s deal with Jeremy Clarkson shows the BBC licence fee is obsolete

31 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Top Gear’ hosts move to Amazon: Why this is controversial.

Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May – formerly of the parish of Top Gear and the BBC – have made it official today; they’ll be presenting a new show made exclusively for Amazon’s Prime TV streaming service.

Prime TV, which comes at an annual cost of around €99 and which also includes such things as free delivery on Amazon purchases (depending on your territory) is Amazon’s rival to the better-known Netflix and allows users to watch both movies and TV shows. It has already produced such critically acclaimed programmes as the transgender drama Transamerica and has commissioned Woody Allen to write and produce a new series (a project which he says is the hardest thing he’s ever worked on). May and Hammond decided not to continue on the show without Clarkson. “Top” had been the subject of controversy for some time, with one critic writing that the “essence of ‘Top Gear’ lies in childish pranks, ‘politically incorrect’ jokes, [and] smutty comments” and another writing that the show consists of “drooling over European supercars while making xenophobic remarks.” However, more than one million people signed a petition asking that Clarkson be brought back to “Top.” Amazon Prime Video EU vice-president Jay Marine referenced this demand, saying, “Customers told us they wanted to see the team back on screen, and we are excited to make that happen.” Streaming services bringing back shows that are canceled is nothing new now, as seen by Hulu’s revival of Fox’s “The Mindy Project,” Yahoo Screen’s decision to bring back NBC’s “Community,” and the appearance of Fox show “Arrested Development” on Netflix.

Amazon Prime, as with Netflix, does not publish viewing figures but is estimated to have as many as 50-million Prime subscribers worldwide, according to the Geekwire website. Amazon is also estimated to be losing significant amounts of money on Prime and is reckoned to be about to increase the price, possibly by as much as €30. At the official announcement today, James May said that is was ironic that “we have become part of the new age of smart TV.” Clarkson said that moving from the BBC to Amazon was like “climbing from a biplane into a spaceship.” Certainly it’s a canny move, as because of Amazon’s US base it sidesteps a clause in the trio’s contracts that prevent them making a rival motoring show for another British broadcaster but that same clause may prevent, in the short term at least, Amazon clawing back some of the show’s no-doubt significant budget by selling it to terrestrial networks.

Amazon doesn’t sell cars but it is still a commercial organisation so it will be interesting to see if Clarkson’s wings are metaphorically clipped. It’s currently being rebuilt by a team surrounding new lead presenter and producer Chris Evans but there has been little news since his appointment as to other presenters or the format of the show.

Car-nut couch-potatoes will shortly have to make a choice – watch an untried but free to air Top Gear on the BBC, or stick with the tried and tested crew of Clarkson, Hammond and May but fork out a significant annual fee for the privilege.

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