Netflix snatching new Top Gear will grind Amazon Prime's gears

New Top Gear heading to Netflix is something that will grind Amazon Prime's gears
New Top Gear heading to Netflix is something that will grind Amazon Prime's gears

Top Gear is currently in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most-watched factual TV programme in the world. Thanks to the BBC's brilliant record of shipping its programmes worldwide, it's a show that's watched by 350 million people in some 214 territories.

As a brand there's not much bigger, so the news from Buzzfeed that Netflix has secured the rights to Top Gear outside of the UK is massive. It's yet another step to make sure that its main streaming rival, Amazon Prime, doesn't find itself in Pole Position with the rival show it's creating with Top Gear alumni Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond.

There's no doubting that Clarkson and co's car show will be big but, for Amazon, it has to be big. The sum it paid to have the rights to the series is vast.

The only reason the show is parked with Amazon is because of a big bidding war. As Netflix CEO Ted Sandros told Buzzfeed: "They bid themselves out to many people and to the highest price, like most creators do. It's a natural process and Amazon paid the highest price."

Worth a lot

Netflix hasn't done this with Top Gear. It hasn't had to pay the millions for the hosts. It hasn't had to pay the millions for the stunts. And if it is indeed part of its current deal with the BBC, then it's very unlikely to have dipped much further into its own vast pockets to secure the license.


The outlay, then, is minimal while Amazon chief Jeff Bezos told the Telegraph that its car show will be "very, very, very expensive," for Amazon. "They're worth a lot and they know it."

According to The Financial Times "a lot" equates to £160 million ($250m).

The BBC used to make £50 million a year out of Top Gear, which included DVD sales, merchandise and live shows. Oh, and its ability to sell the series globally, according to the Guardian. For Amazon to just break even over the contracted three series it will have to better this.

There is no doubt, for Amazon, the car show it will get from Clarkson and co will be the biggest show ever for Amazon Prime, possibly ever. The kudos that comes signing up three former Top Gear stars is massive, as is the press, but then so is the weight of their pay checks.

House mates

It's clear that Amazon hopes to one day oust Netflix as the streaming king but it still has a long way to go. So far, it's made some brave if clumsy decisions to push Amazon Prime as much as it can.

Currently for £79 ($99) you can get Amazon Prime bundled with free one-day delivery, Amazon Music, the Prime Kindle eBook Library, Prime Music and Prime Photo storage. It's so close to throwing in the kitchen sink, yet people still prefer Netflix.

According to research by Enders Analysis, in the UK, Netflix is outpacing all of the current VOD offerings combined.

It believes that in 2015 Netflix saw 37% growth, adding 1.8 million new subscribers pushing its user base to 5.2 million. In contrast Amazon Prime, according to the same research, has just 1.6 million paying subscribers.

House of Cards

How has Netflix done this? Through savvy advertising and clever show creation. Netflix will always be known as the house that House of Cards built but then there's also Daredevil, Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad's final season, Orange is the New Black... it's had hit after hit, or at least perceived hits given it rarely gives out its viewing figures.

Amazon Prime's Originals success has also been fantastic - thanks to Emmy-embraced shows like Transparent - but fleeting. Amazon has yet to ride the wave of success as well as Netflix.

Which brings us back to that car show. Clarkson, May and Hammond are Amazon's best shot yet at driving Prime into the prime time, but if it thinks it has bought something more powerful than the Top Gear brand, then it needs to come up with yet another plan.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.