There’s been a lot of speculation about where Jeremy Clarkson and his follow Top Gear presenters might end up next – Sky seems to have ruled out hiring him but ITV is rumoured to be sniffing around and some expect Netflix to make a play.
ITV has been here before – it took on Jonathan Ross, another controversial former BBC presenter, tamed him sufficiently to stop him endlessly becoming the story without denting his appeal, and now has a regular ratings winner for its efforts.
So it’s easy to see why the broadcaster might be tempted to team-up with Clarkson and Co and see if they can replicate that success.
But the BBC’s latest iPlayer viewing figures show why the trio’s next home could well be Netflix.
In February the show accounted for the first, second, third and fourth most requested episodes on the platform, with the most watched clocking up an impressive 2.645m viewing requests.
(The actual number is likely to be even greater because the BBC’s charts don’t include viewing through Virgin Media or Sky’s set top boxes.)
If you were a Netflix executive those figures would give you cause to consider calling Clarkson’s agent with a firm offer.
The streaming giant is on the hunt for shows which can strengthen its appeal outside the US and provide a genuine ‘TV event’ experience – a rebadged Top Gear could easily be their next big hit.
The show is already a ratings winner both here and around the world and the figures above show us that a sizeable portion of the UK audience is happy to stream the show rather than watch ‘live’ on TV.
Of course, that’s Top Gear and not The Clarkson, Hammond and May Show – but helpfully the BBC has also provided us with some evidence that the trio are at least as big the brand.
In an attempt to cash in on the show’s popularity, BBC Worldwide co-produced local versions in the US, Australia and Russia with all-new presenter line-ups.
Two have since been axed while one was dropped by NBC and had to find a new home on the less-watched Discovery channel. None have replicated the ratings success of the original and its line-up – the newly launched French version was watched by 1m viewers for its debut episode, while the US version ended its most recent run with just 1.24m.
This week’s decision to allow Clarkson to front the series’ live shows may have been partly driven by contractual obligations, but it also suggests BBC bosses weren’t entirely confident the Top Gear brand would be a sufficiently big draw.
When even the brand owners come to the conclusion that the audience wants to see Clarkson, Hammond and May sodding around, not Top Gear with A.N.Other host, then rivals will inevitably start sitting up and taking notice.
And when the same organisation generously releases audited, gold-standard figures showing how popular the trio are and how many people will happily go out of their way to watch them, they’re making it a lot easier for Clarkson and Co to get a deal elsewhere.