Jeremy Clarkson & Co in return to Amazon

31 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Amazon nabs former “Top Gear’ trio.

BRITISH television presenter Jeremy Clarkson, dropped from hit BBC motoring show Top Gear for punching a producer, will make a new car series for Amazon Prime.The controversial ex-hosts of the long-running British television show “Top Gear” are headed to Inc’s Prime Instant Video service to create a new automotive series, people familiar with the matter said.Former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson has signed a deal with Amazon to present a new motoring show alongside his former co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May. Clarkson will reunite with co-stars James May and Richard Hammond for the as-yet unnamed show, which is due to begin filming “shortly” and will be broadcast next year, Amazon said yesterday.

Despite being shocked at the broadcaster’s decision not to renew his contract, Clarkson had said he was confident he would do another car show eventually. So not so much “saving a show” as it is “reuniting all of the stars for a very similar-sounding show.” BBC’s “Top Gear,” of course, is one of the biggest shows in Britain, worth about £50 million ($78 million) a year and attracting a reported 350 million viewers worldwide. The TV industry is changing at breakneck speed, reminding us almost every day of why we don’t need the state to intervene for great content to be produced. Amazon said the new show, to be overseen by the trio’s long-time executive producer Andy Wilman, will be available on its subscription streaming service Amazon Prime next year and will run for three seasons. Much of the appeal was Clarkson’s straight-talking, “man of the people” approach, but critics condemned him as a boorish bigot and he was an increasingly controversial figure even before the altercation with a producer in March.

It was the last straw for the BBC, already used to Clarkson’s ill-received comments and controversies, though 1 million fans signed a petition for his return. Clarkson reported himself to BBC management after admitting to shouting at and hitting Oisin Tymon, giving him a bleeding lip for which the producer sought hospital treatment. “I feel like I’ve climbed out of a biplane and into a spaceship,” Clarkson said on the announcement that the trio would be filming three seasons of a new show for Amazon. Clarkson had generated both controversy and profits for Britain’s publicly funded broadcaster, and had been on a final warning over accusations last year he had used racist language while filming the show. A few weeks after Clarkson was fired, Hammond and May announced they would not continue Top Gear” without Clarkson; last month, BBC signed on TV and BBC radio host Chris Evans as the new star. “Me and Hammond with a surrogate Jeremy is a non-starter, it just wouldn’t work,” May told the Guardian. “That would be lame, or ‘awks’ as young people say.” But now, the original Clarkson-Hammond-May trio — who have worked together for the last 13 years — will join together again.

Next year’s launch could be remembered as the tipping point – the moment a new generation of content producers finally dethroned the old TV incumbents, and the BBC in particular. Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer and Prime, an internet streaming service similar to Netflix, offers subscribers access to thousands of films and television shows, including original content. A Top Gear television crew was forced to flee Argentina after driving a Porsche 928 GT with the registration number H982 FKL, which some people suggested could have referred to the Falklands conflict. Both streaming services have been furiously investing in original series as they become increasingly picky about renewing library deals for old shows. The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon won after a bidding war among Netflix and “major broadcasters.” (Disclosure: Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P.

These new players have huge pockets, immense marketing and promotional muscle, the best technology and are far better run than the bureaucratic, slumbering, depressed BBC. But Amazon is desperate to fight back from a slow start (it originally purchased Lovefilm to enter the market): its UK share is 3.7pc, significantly less than its US presence. Amazon can also license rights to the show to broadcasters or streaming services in other territories around the world where Prime video isn’t available.

As part of his recent results presentation, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s boss, highlighted the fact that his company received 11 Emmy nominations for its Transparent comedy series and debuted six new pilots for kids. ITV relies on advertising and content production; BSkyB on subscriptions driven by a range of factors, including sports rights, original content, broadband, telephony and other services; Netflix on subscriptions; and Amazon on bundling content with its Prime Delivery service. His self-proclaimed aversion to political correctness has won him a large following of fans: BBC has said “Top Gear” has a global audience of 350 million.

The digital subscription model is thus more powerful: it works for niches (people who care about Scandinavian movies) as well as the mass market (lovers of Clarkson). Supporters of the current taxpayer-financed set-up argue that without public service broadcasting we would see a race to the bottom – but that is not what the investments that are increasingly being made by US entrants into the market would suggest. The firing prompted a groundswell of support for Clarkson, including an online petition calling for his reinstatement that gathered close to a million signatures.

A state-owned car company that handed out vehicles below cost would quickly be challenged by the EU competition authorities; it is strange that such commonsensical rules do not apply to the Beeb. The second reason is that the licence fee and the politicisation of the BBC that goes with it can only lead to the corporation slowly being undermined.

It cannot launch its own streaming services, it will be forced to cut back on much of what it does currently and it cannot properly expand internationally or take on Netflix. This would make sure that the BBC reflected the views and expectations of its audience, rather than those of a small elite; members would vote on major corporate decisions.

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