Sky has no plans to hire Jeremy Clarkson now he has left the BBC, according to well-placed sources at the company.
A senior source told RadioTimes.com that the broadcaster was “not interested” in snapping up Clarkson’s services despite reports that it was positioning itself to offer him a big money deal. Sky was also named by Ladbrokes today as the most likely destination for Clarkson, giving odds of 6/4 that he switches his allegiance to Sky.
However this has been immediately quashed by the company, with another senior source confirming the lack of interest and pointing to the Sky's status as a family broadcaster.
“We couldn’t put Jeremy Clarkson on any Sky channels, especially those which are part of a family package deal and then face another controversy round the corner,” said the source.
Other potential new homes for Clarkson – or the trio of Top Gear presenters – include ITV and online TV service Netflix.
Neither ITV nor Netflix responded to inquiries by RadioTimes.com but they both have valid reasons for a potential interest.
ITV is suffering a ratings trough this year and is said to be keen to attract more young male viewers, especially after it lost the rights to show Champions League football to BT. BT Sport has snapped up a three-year deal to show all Champions League and Europa League matches staring with the 2015-16 tournament.
Netflix is also seen as a possible fit for Clarkson given the global popularity of Top Gear which attracts an estimated worldwide audience of 350 million people. The online subscription service could offer an immediate and accessible destination for fans.
May today gave the strongest indication that he and Hammond might follow Clarkson out of the show after the BBC announced it was not renewing his contract.
"I'm sure Top Gear will continue in some way. It existed before us, it's been reformatted several times,” he told reporters.
As to whether he would stay with the show, May said "I don’t want to talk about that too much" but did note that "I think we are very much the three of us [Clarkson, Hammond and May] as a package. It works for very complicated reasons that a lot of people don’t fully understand. So that will require a lot of careful thought."
Asked who else he might be willing to work with on the show, May added: "Much as I think he’s a knob I quite like working with Jeremy."
Hammond described Clarkson’s dismissal as “the end to an era”, tweeting:
Gutted at such a sad end to an era. We're all three of us idiots in our different ways but it's been an incredible ride together.
— Richard Hammond (@RichardHammond) March 25, 2015
Meanwhile, the BBC said it is keen to revive Top Gear for 2016 without Clarkson, and director-general Tony Hall’s statement was careful to praise Clarkson’s skills as a broadcaster.
“This decision should in no way detract from the extraordinary contribution that Jeremy Clarkson has made to the BBC,” said Hall. “I have always personally been a great fan of his work and Top Gear. Jeremy is a huge talent. He may be leaving the BBC but I am sure he will continue to entertain, challenge and amuse audiences for many years to come."