It was always most likely that Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May would move to an online streaming service but yesterday’s news of their deal with Amazon came as a genuine surprise to most fans and commentators who’d expected their new show to end up on Netflix.
If you want some idea of just how unexpected the Amazon move was, William Hill yesterday issued a statement revealing that “that not one single customer backed the 100/1 that Amazon Prime would be the channel to get the signature of Clarkson & Co!”
And the bookies also reported that “Netflix had been the red hot favourites at 1/3 with a flurry of cash just seven days ago.”
Still, Amazon now has a major new signing with instant global appeal and one which will help persuade UK subscribers to give its Amazon’s Prime service a try.
In the US its estimated that Amazon has more subscribers than Netflix and is embedded into the public’s consciousness. Here in the UK Amazon Prime is less well known and its Instant Prime streaming service – which is based on the now defunct Lovefilm – has suffered from a lacklustre and patchy feel.
But Amazon is currently investing in a lot of new content, such as Halle Berry’s futuristic mystery thriller Extant and a new series from Woody Allen, which will help draw in new users. And, unlike Netflix, it produces a lot of hardware such as its Fire Stick to make it easier to watch its library content on any TV.
Adding the former Top Gear trio to its catalogue of shows and films not only increases the appeal of Amazon’s service, it deprives Netflix of a key new franchise.
Top Gear – the UK version with Clarkson, Hammond and May – is reportedly one of Netflix’s most popular shows and many of its subscribers will have wanted and expected to see the trio’s new show on their current service.
Not having that show will dent the appeal of Netflix for some customers and Amazon’s exclusive deal will help it lure in and retain more subscribers.
A final word on the £160m price tag that’s been reported over night.
It’s an impressive figure – especially if it’s accurate – and suggests Amazon are expecting a high quality show in return for their investment.
But while some of the reporting suggests this is what Hammond, Clarkson and May have directly pocketed, it’s more likely this is what Amazon are paying the trio and Andy Wilman’s new production company to make the series.
Rather than just being the group’s “windfall” the cash will almost certainly have to cover the show’s production costs.
Obviously that’ll still leave a fair bit of cash for the presenters who will make far more money than they ever did at the BBC – Clarkson’s punch looks to have delivered the sort of payday that’s normally only enjoyed by the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao and understandably there’ll be some who feel distinctly uncomfortable about that.