Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended from the BBC and his future at the corporation is in doubt. What would happen if he left the BBC for good and took his talents elsewhere?
While a petition calling for the Top Gear presenter to be reinstated is, at the time of writing, only a few thousand signatures shy of hitting half a million, Clarkson could still be forced to clear his desk.
If he is shown the door he could start a new motoring show with ITV or Sky. It’s likely that co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May would follow suit, if their contracts allowed it.
However, if Clarkson wanted to make some serious cash, he could launch a new show on YouTube or Netflix.
Netflix certainly has the financial clout to create the equivalent of Top Gear 2.0 while giving Clarkson a big-money contract. Also, if Clarkson wanted to rake it in, he could set up a subscription-only YouTube channel.
At the time of writing, the BBC-owned Top Gear channel has over 4 million subscribers. Assuming, for argument’s sake, that all of these punters moved over to the new paid channel and Clarkson charged something like £2/month, this would bring in a cool £96 million before taxes.
Even if a subscription model wasn’t adopted and it was ad-funded, those numbers would come rolling in – in 2012, Top Gear earned a Guinness World Record for Most Watched Factual TV Show Of All Time. Everyone would be rolling in stacks of Internet money, laughing their right-wing, politically-incorrect bums off.
Assuming Clarkson did go down this route, and really wanted to stick it to the Beeb, he could encourage a proportion of his most loyal fans to stop paying the licence fee – you don’t need a TV licence to stream online video.
The BBC would still own the brand, so it’s conceivable that many people would tune in to whatever Jezza-free version of Top Gear the Beeb could conjure. There’s no denying that Clarkson has only been a good thing for the show in terms of ratings. It’d be very hard for the BBC to replicate that success.
I’d like to state, for the record, that I don’t like Top Gear. I’m not a big petrolhead and I’m not a huge fan of Clarkson’s brand of off the cuff, avuncular twattoonery. Millions of others however absolutely love him, the Hamster and Captain Slow and I’m happy for them. I don’t want to see Top Gear cancelled or Clarkson given the boot.
But given the history and the situation, that might be the only option on the table. We still don’t know the full details of the incident, other than a physical altercation – a ‘fracas’ – has taken place. This has got nothing to do with ‘free speech’ or ‘political correctness’. At least one adult human being was unable to control their temper.