Former Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May have signed up for a new motoring show on Amazon Prime, set to air in 2016. The news ends months of speculation about the trio's future on TV after the BBC refused to renew Clarkson's contract following a "fracas" during filming this year. The deal is a major coup for Amazon's streaming service, which lags behind rival Netflix, and although there are no details of how much the firm paid for the trio, a company insider told the London Evening Standard: "We have made a significant investment."
"I feel like I’ve climbed out of a bi-plane and into a spaceship."
The contract commits Clarkson, Hammond, and May to three years of the show, with work on the first season scheduled to start in fall. "I feel like I’ve climbed out of a bi-plane and into a spaceship," said Clarkson in a press release, with Hammond commenting: "Amazon? Oh yes. I have already been there. I got bitten by a bullet ant." May added: "We have become part of the new age of smart TV. Ironic, isn’t it?"
In addition to the three presenters, Amazon also secured former Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman, an old school friend of Clarkson's and the figure credited with the show's revival in the early 2000s. Wilman and Clarkson reportedly dreamt up the show's tone and style during a conversation in a pub 15 years ago, putting Top Gear on the long road to becoming the most watched factual program of all time, with an estimated worldwide audience of some 350 million.
Amazon has the global rights to the show, meaning it should appear on the $99-a-year Prime Instant Video in the US, UK, and other markets. For Top Gear fans who don't have access to Prime though, The Wall Street Journal notes that Amazon has the power to license rights to the show to other broadcasters. "Customers told us they wanted to see the team back on screen, and we are excited to make that happen," said Jay Marine, vice president of Amazon Prime Video EU. "Our approach is to give program makers creative freedom to be innovative and make the shows they want to make."
Verge Video: The cars of the Detroit Auto Show in three minutes