The end of the Clarkson era at the BBC’s Top Gear was one of the most acrimonious moments of BBC history, a clash of cultures as the superbly successful TV show reached the end of the road, and whilst it was obvious they’d keep going in one form or another it was eventually to be the new boy on the block Amazon Prime who would bet on the Grand Tour being as successful in the harsh world of commercial subscription television, a wager you’d not have got short odds on at BetVictor.
Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May had created an empire that had made them rich, well-known and popular.
James May (source: IBTimes UK)
They each presented a host of other shows from Man Lab to Braniac, were household names throughout the world and despite a nationalistic middle-England streak that irked the sensibilities of many were the BBCs biggest money spinner, but then it all went wrong and left all three stars, plus producer Andy Wilman to bet on the Grand Tour instead. And all because of a steak….
The story goes that after a hard day’s filming Jeremy Clarkson returned to a hotel in want of food, a steak in particular, and upon finding no hot food available took out his displeasure on producer Oisin Tymon. When the details of this “assault” came to light Clarkson, who had sailed close to the wind on previous occasions was axed, the popular Murdoch owned press in the UK gambling news of his going would sell more newspapers than of his being forgiven by their competitors at the BBC once again.
The BBC Didn’t Bet On The Grand Tour Being Possible
Amazon Prime Video
- Access Figures
- Before The Grand Tour
- 2015 – 6.8%
- After The Grand Tour
- 2017 – 14%
- Industry Comparison
- Netflix 2017 – 29%
That Hammond, May and Wilman followed Clarkson when the BBC showed him the door was no surprise, the show revolved around their interaction and various character traits, and indeed the pale imitation that the BBC still air demonstrates that the success of Top Gear relied far more on personality than formula. However could it really be transplanted from the cosseted atmosphere of Aunty and was it wise to bet on the Grand Tour gaining enough of an audience on the little-known Amazon Prime?
Internet giants Amazon moving into production of television programming to compete with the likes of Netflix in new media landscape of on-demand services seemed destined to have a struggle on its hands but in the bidding war that went on behind the scenes they had the big bucks and offered Wilman and company a dream deal, willing to let them off the leash and pay for the privilege. It wouldn’t be an easy sell but in there was no one in the UK gambling laws of publicity would be so easily bent to their will.
You Want To Wager On Wheels Take The Off-Ramp For BetVictor
From the off Amazon’s bet on the Grand Tour looked to be a winner. The press were hungry for details, with the few leaks from production sources hinting at all sorts of bizarre goings on with the trio themselves adding to the mystery before launching into a successful publicity campaign prior to the first series that doubled their subscriber numbers in a year, leaving them doing 50% of the business as longer running rivals Netflix. Sure the $35m price tag of 12-episodes might be steep, but it’s working.
The Grand Tour poster (source: Amazon)
This “tentpole marketing” was a bet on the Grand Tour attracting people to the channel, and it has been a huge success, a success easily identified with hindsight but as we shall see next at the time there was no guarantee that those who like to bet on sports in the UK and had taken up subscriptions to Sky, or those that liked movies and had bought into Netflix, left an audience of paying customers to cough up for Amazon Prime. It all depended on that first season’s reception and you can read about it here.