Hammond and May to Turn Down $6 Million BBC Deal and Join Clarkson on Netflix
"A faithful man shall abound with blessings, but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent." That’s a quote from Proverbs, but it could just as easily have been from James May and Richard Hammond’s response to the BBC’s latest offer.
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Why it matters
Earlier rumors held that the BBC had offered Hammond and May about $13.9 million to sign on for two more seasons of Top Gear, sans Jeremy Clarkson. Actually, it’s closer to $6 million each — which would come in very handy right now, especially for James May. Now unemployed, May’s been selling off most of his motorcycles, and even got rid of his mint 1984 Porsche 911 for a paltry $53,000. All right, that’s not especially bad money for an old Porsche, and maybe May’s just had enough of owning it after eight years. But still, it’s obvious that May’s been liquidating a bit. So has Hammond, who recently sold 12 of his prize motorcycles for a total of $118,000. It’s a huge hit for Hammond, a long-time collector.
In spite of the fact that May and Hammond have been pretty clear that they and Clarkson work as a team, rumor (likely issuing from the BBC) had it that they would in fact be returning to Top Gear.
So — at what price faith and friendship?
In spite of the fact that May and Hammond have been pretty clear that they and Clarkson work as a team, rumor (likely issuing from the BBC) had it that they would in fact be returning to Top Gear. The BBC would model this new iteration of the show after Have I Got News for You, and bring in a new guest host every week. It’s actually not a bad idea, and might prove a means to salvage the show. But the BBC apparently underestimated the logistical problems involved with rebooting and re-branding a show with more than a billion viewers worldwide. Viewers are much more loyal to the hosts than they ever were to the BBC.
The BBC also apparently underestimated two other things. First, the fact that rebooting Top Gear without Clarkson would be like trying to make an Avengers movie without Robert Downey Jr., Captain America OR Joss Whedon. No hyperbole — a source "close to the show" told the Daily Mirror this:
"Clarkson had his faults but his importance to the show cannot be understated. He wrote it, came up with ideas and was its heart. It will need about three or four good operators to replace him. The amount of work required to get Top Gear back on the road again is just sinking in amongst executives. It is a huge task. Richard and James could make it work as a duo - but the idea of different guest presenters every week is seen as a non-starter."
Chalk up another huge underestimation on the BBC’s part. But even the monumental prospect of completely re-inventing the show "without its heart" pales in comparison the the Beeb’s greatest underestimation:
The power of faith and friendship.
Despite the BBC’s massive offer, and despite their own current financial difficulties, May and Hammond have remained steadfast that they won’t return without Clarkson. Neither have resigned from the BBC as of yet, and they probably won’t officially sign their resignation slips until one more piece of paper comes in the mail: a brand-new contract with Netflix.
Clarkson, as you may already know, has been working with Netflix on developing an original show tentatively titled "House of Cars." Jezza will have complete creative control over the show, and probably a budget similar to that Top Gear enjoyed on the BBC. With the critically acclaimed Daredevil, upcoming Sense8, and other shows like Breaking Bad and Arrested Development on its roster, Netflix is already a crushingly powerful force in modern media; with a current annual revenue of $5.5 billion, Netflix is worth about $500 million more a year than the BBC.
Say what you will about Clarkson; he is a pain in the ass. He is a jerk, and he is a primadonna.
And that was before the Brits effectively handed them a billion new viewers. Assuming that even one-tenth of Top Gear’s former audience signs up for Netflix, the company could easily stand to double its current $5.5 billion a year. At which point, it would technically be the fourth-largest broadcasting company in the world, right behind 20th Century Fox.
So, what of May and Hammond, then? All indications right now say...
Nevermind the Beeb’s feeble offer of $3 million a year; double or triple that figure could be more likely from Netflix. No matter how much it is, though, it’s bound to be loads more than the BBC is offering. All while offering the hosts almost complete creative control over the show, and not forcing them to beg government bureaucrats for a quick drive to Birmingham. With Netflix’s budget, the boys could probably drive to South Africa, and build a bridge from Capetown to Antarctica on nothing but the sunken dreams of BBC executives.
But most of all, the team would be together again
Say what you will about Clarkson; he is a pain in the ass. He is a jerk, and he is a primadonna. But the reality of the world is that even jerks have true friends, and people put up with primadonnas because they’re too good to be replaced. The price you pay for true talent usually is having to put up with a certain amount of insane BS. But patience has its rewards, politics has its failures, and a faithful man shall abound with blessings.
Let’s hear it for faithful friends.