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Apple took on Amazon in a bidding war for 'Top Gear' stars

Apple took on Amazon in a bidding war for 'Top Gear' stars

Apple's Competitors
September 1, 2015

When I switch Amazon Instant Video on, every so often I’m met with an advertisement for the company’s upcoming (and highly anticipated) show involving former “Top Gear” presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond. This was a big, bold move for Amazon to make, and it’ll likely score the company additional Prime subscriptions (here in Britain, whether you like it or not, the BBC’s “Top Gear” was a big deal). As such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that Apple took Amazon on in a bidding war for the car-mad trio.

In a report published Monday, Variety shared details concerning the news. The publication explained that our friends at Cupertino are indeed exploring original programming, adding that Apple even attempted to secure Clarkson, May, and Hammond after the three left the BBC some months ago:

Other sources described the company’s exploration as more of a flirtation, though one pointed to a recent sign that an escalation of interest is clear: Apple is said to have made an unprecedented bid to secure the stars of “Top Gear” when they exited their BBC series earlier this year. But Amazon ended up winning the bidding war for Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond in July.

Instead, Amazon indeed won the bidding war, paying an estimated $246 million for 36 episodes of the to-be-aired show.

Surprisingly, despite the high fee, Amazon is leaving the “Top Gear” team to produce their own show “from scratch,” and the production company reportedly has a “free reign,” according to an earlier Variety report. It’s hoped the show will broadcast on Amazon Instant Video in around one year’s time.

But did Apple miss a trick, allowing Amazon to pay for Clarkson et al. and to produce the new show, in-house? Well, you could say that, especially if Apple is eager to begin making its own original programming for a yet-to-be-announced (albeit widely discussed) television streaming service. According to the BBC, “Top Gear” was the most popular fact-based TV program in the world. Having exclusive access to the successor of such a program would surely be no bad thing.

For now, we’re unsure whether Apple’s interest in original programming is a serious endeavor, or mere “flirtation,” as the Variety piece notes. Admittedly, the article added:

The scale of Apple’s ambitions vary depending on whom is asked, but one high-level executive who talked with the company said the goal is to create development and production divisions that would churn out long-form content to stream in a bid to compete with Netflix. Apple is hoping to put a headhunting firm on those hires in the coming months, according to source, with the goal of being in operation next year. Unknown is whether the focus is on TV series, movies — or both.

It’ll be interesting to see the direction Apple takes. Of course, we’ll keep you posted on this front with further information as we receive it.

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