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Clarkson team get $250m deal

Former Top Gear trio sign up for new show with Amazon

ClarksonFormer Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are launching a new series on Amazon Prime which is set to air in 2016.

The announcement ends months of speculation about the trio’s future after the BBC refused to renew Clarkson’s contract following a “fracas” during filming in Yorkshire this year.

Signing the trio is a major coup for Amazon’s streaming service, which should get a big lift in its attempt to catch rival Netflix.

Sources say Amazon has paid an astonishing $250 million for 36 shows. Amazon said it had made a “substantial investment” in the three presenters who made it clear they would stick together.

The contract commits Clarkson, Hammond, and May to three years, with work on the first season scheduled to start in the autumn.

“I feel like I’ve climbed out of a bi-plane and into a spaceship,” said Clarkson.

Hammond commented: “Amazon? Oh yes. I have already been there. I got bitten by a bullet ant.”  He said on Twitter: “I’ve got a job I’ve got a job I’ve got a job. Haircut, clean jeans and practice driving again. Forrrrwaaaaaaaard!!”

May added: “We have become part of the new age of smart TV. Ironic, isn’t it?”

Top Gear, one of the BBC’s most valuable shows generating about £50m a year for its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, will return to BBC2 next year with a new lineup headed by Radio 2 breakfast DJ, Chris Evans.

Amazon has also secured former Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman, an old school friend of Clarkson’s and who has been credited with the show’s rebirth 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 programme of all time, with an estimated worldwide audience of some 350 million.

Amazon has the global rights to the as-yet unnamed show, but for those For Top Gear fans who don’t have access to Prime it seems it will be licensed to other broadcasters.

Clarkson was fired by the BBC in March after an “unprovoked physical attack” on one of the Top Gear producers, Oisin Tymon. He later apologised and, it emerged, asked the BBC to take him back.

 

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