Fast Lane For Fast Cash: Why “Top Gear” Went With Amazon Over Netflix

Ladies and gentleman, not-Top Gear is back!

The trio formerly of the world’s most popular show about three middle-aged men behaving like children has landed on Amazon. Some are wondering why the new show won’t be on the more-popular Netflix, but the decision actually makes a lot of sense when broken down into three distinct categories: convenience, money, and need.

Relaunched in 2002, Top Gear returned to the airwaves with not-so-new host Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and Jason Dawe, the latter of whom would be replaced by James May in Season 2. Executive producer Andy Wilman and Clarkson would go on to create a hugely successful show that would continue for 22 seasons, become the world’s most popular factual program, and transform the entire automotive industry – especially in entertainment and journalism.

There can be no doubt that for Clarkson, Hammond, and May, familiar scenery was a big plus. Although Amazon’s new UK office outside of London is a longer drive than the old Dunsfold Park location, it doesn’t involve a move to the United States to work with Netflix – a likely caveat since the company lacks a strong corporate presence in the UK. Indeed, Amazon even has a separate global headquarters in Luxembourg, should it be needed, and we all know how the trio enjoys their road trips across Europe.

Top Gear was defined by vehicles, vistas, and an unrivaled camaraderie between the hosts.
Top Gear was defined by vehicles, vistas, and an unrivaled camaraderie between the hosts.

Success and longevity played a key role in the trio establishing their roots in the U.K. over the course of 22 seasons and it’s easy to see why convenience was such a huge plus in working with Amazon (specifically Amazon UK) versus Netflix.

This point is especially true for Clarkson, with three children and in the midst of a divorce, a move to the U.S. would be hugely impractical as he works to readjust his bearings to life after “Top Gear.”

Money is, obviously, a major factor as well. While the official numbers have not yet been released, The Daily Mirror has reported that Amazon is shelling out $250 million for three, 12-episode seasons from the former Top Gear trio + producer Andy Wilman.

That’s big bucks – and when you look at what the hosts were paid beforehand – it highlights how Amazon was able to seal the deal to make the new show happen.

Clarkson made £1.5 million from his BBC salary alone in 2014, while revenue from multiple sources (including a stake in the Top Gear brand) meant he made about £14 million total from Top Gear.

Hammond and May made a bit less than their more ostentatious cohort, but are believed to have been offered around £1 million to stay on in the new chapter of Top Gear, now hosted by Chris Evans.

The move to Amazon allows the trio to continue their insane challenges.
The move to Amazon allows the trio to continue their insane challenges.

Looking at the media landscape, whoever was going to land the trio needed to have the funds to bring them in and produce a quality show; we see now how Amazon has that in spades, especially with main British networks ITV and SKY unable to sign Clarkson due to a non-compete.

While both Netflix and Amazon provide streaming media, the list of goods and services that Amazon provides is simply staggering. A marketplace for goods, consumer electronics, games, art, publishing, and of course an entire shipping network that spans the globe.

It’s why Amazon is a $100 billion company and why Netflix is a $20 billion company.

And for a team used to working with a significant budget and the worldwide reach of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), Amazon is the closest fit for an independant media venture.

The move also couldn’t come at a better time for Amazon.

Netflix is the big dog when it comes to streaming content, so much so that it actually outranks YouTube in peak download traffic. It’s share, 36% (according to Sandvine) dwarfs that of Amazon (2%). More to the point, Netflix is the go-to source for streaming content, and Amazon wants a piece of the pie.

Amazon vs. Netflix - a lot of work to do
Amazon vs. Netflix – a lot of work to do

While Netflix works with a smaller budget to produce some incredible shows (House of Cards, Daredevil, OITNB), Amazon has a large budget and not much to show for it (Transparent – maybe?). Obviously, Amazon wants to expand as more and more cut the cord for cable, but they don’t have the product that convinces people to sign up for Prime Instant Video – until now.

Landing the producer and hosts for one of the world’s most popular television shows is a coup for Amazon. It’s the golden egg on a silver platter that will convince people to sign up for Amazon Prime just because of a show – much like how Netflix is able to do with their current roster of original content.

Make no mistake, this is Amazon arming the missiles at Netflix.
Make no mistake, this is Amazon arming the missiles at Netflix.

I can almost hear the boardroom executives at Amazon – demanding for years to find a way to put Prime Instant Video on the map.

The BBC, which arguably made the right decision in not renewing Clarkson’s contract after he punched a member of the production team, just gifted that golden opportunity to independent streaming companies.

Amazon brought the money and the capital to convince the “Top Gear” trio to sign on and it’s pretty much a win-win for all of us. Clarkson, Hammond, and May are back with their producer Andy Wilman and the budget to bring us the cars and hijinks we have come to love.