That Jeremy Clarkson has been a clever boy, hasn’t he? Not only did he manage to bag his most lucrative TV deal yet after punching a colleague, he can also watch the Top Gear ratings car crash knowing he will never have to reveal his own numbers again.
There’s no doubt about it, Top Gear’s viewing figures have taken a serious turn for the worse this week. And whatever ‘ACTUAL FACTS’ Chris Evans shares on Twitter, there’s clearly a problem if people stop assuming the series is worth staying in for on a Sunday night.
But the daft thing about all these ratings stories is that we will only ever see one side of the story. When Top Gear’s rival The Grand Tour fires up this autumn, nobody will know how many are tuning in.
Amazon, like its major on demand competitor Netflix, does not have to reveal viewing figures for its major shows. The Grand Tour, like House of Cards, Ripper Street, Jessica Jones and the rest, exists in a bubble. Everybody assumes everyone must be bingeing on something, but nobody is actually sure how much or on what.
It’s like driving without a speedometer. Clarkson, Hammond and May can hurtle along care-free knowing that, as long as they bring in a roughly satisfactory number of new subscribers, they can spend as much as they like and make whatever the hell they want without having to face the cold hard numbers every week. Only Amazon’s bosses will know the truth.
And that must really grate for Evans, who has been trying desperately to explain how Top Gear “is repositioning the way television is consumed.”
Yes the ratings this week looked particularly bleak, but that is at least partly down to the fact that it was so gorgeous outside that we’d all rather a barbecue than a Chris Evans roasting. iPlayer’s convenience is cold comfort for the man in the eye of the storm.
Amazon can choose to show its hand of course. Its data – how many people watch, how long viewers tune in for, how many episodes they watch and where they go next – is far more accurate than anything regular television overnight figures can produce.
So, in the spirit of Top Gear and The Grand Tour, here’s a little challenge to Clarkson and his new Amazon chums when The Grand Tour starts. Release the figures. Show us exactly how many subscribers your multi-million pound bet on the former Top Gear boys has brought in, and tell us how many actually tune in every week.
If the performance is as impressive as you claim, surely you’ll want to tell us how fast you’re going?