If Amazon has any concerns at all about giving Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May complete creative control over their new motoring show, and paying them $160 million in the process, they certainly aren’t showing it. Jay Marine, the European chief of Amazon Prime Video and one of the executives behind signing the ex-Top Gear trio, says that while it has been an incredibly expensive endeavour for the company, he thinks the new show is a safe bet.
“We talk a lot at Amazon about making bold bets but I have to say I put this in the class of like a safe bet,” he says. “This is on the safer side of bets I’ve made. We look at everything when we consider a new show and deal. The reality is these three guys have made a great show for a long time. They have a passionate following and yeah, sometimes they are controversial. But I can tell you people are excited to see them back on air.”
Marine mentioned that imposing restrictions on Clarkson, following his “fracas” with Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon, would be the worst thing they could do. “The worst thing we could go and do is tell Jeremy, James and Richard how to make a great car show,” he says. “They are in control. Those guys have a big budget and creative freedom and we are here to support them. We find great creators. Then we get out of their way and let them make their show, make their vision without trying to put restrictions around them.”
Marine also scoffed at suggestions made by a senior Netflix executive that Amazon paid too much for the show – a comment Netflix later back-tracked on. “Have we paid a lot of money? For sure,” he says. “But these guys are worth a lot of money. It’s very rare that you find something like this where a team come along who already have a built-in worldwide audience that I would argue is unique. This was one of the most sought-after and highly competitive situations we’ve seen in terms of signing them. We looked at the data every which way and we love this deal.”
For Marine, any possibility of the trio potentially doing damage to the Amazon brand takes a back seat to the potential financial rewards on offer – Top Gear holds the Guinness world record as the most-watched factual TV programme in the world – and Marine is banking on the new show to help Amazon’s video service take the fight to rival Netflix. “We do view it as a game-changer,” he says. “It is the exact type of show with a passionate audience that people will subscribe for.”
ITV is rumoured to have been keen to air the show, but Marine poured cold water on the question of whether Amazon might strike deals with other broadcasters after a period of exclusivity. “There has been sub-licensing interest from others, it is a very sought-after show,” he says. “But we have no interest in doing that. This is an exclusive show for Amazon Prime members.”
He also says that Amazon is yet to decide whether to offer the new motoring show in one hit or to run it in a more scheduled episode-by-episode fashion.