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Why Jeremy Clarkson’s ‘Top Gear’ Team Went to Amazon

Executive producer Andy Wilman: 'They’ll give us the freedom to make the programs we want'

LONDON — Why Amazon? That’s the question fans of hit BBC motoring-show “Top Gear” have been asking, after its former presenting team — Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May — and Andy Wilman, the show’s former executive producer, said on Thursday they would produce their new motoring show for Amazon’s streaming service, Amazon Prime. The answer is simple: “Freedom.”

“They’ll give us the freedom to make the programs we want — and you know how we love that freedom — there’s a budget to produce programs of the quality we want, and this is the future. So it’s exhilarating to be part of that future,” Wilman told RadioTimes Friday.

Asked about the new show’s format, Wilman said they had a free rein, with no interference from Amazon, and would be starting “from scratch.” “I can’t tell you how good it feels to get the chance to produce something from scratch. We’re all really excited. No one telling us what we can and can’t do, just us hopefully producing great programs. It feels really liberating,” he said.

Speaking to Broadcast magazine, Wilman reiterated the point. “Everyone we have talked to has said to us: ‘They leave you alone to make your show’. That’s a big one for us — we don’t like interference, we don’t need to be policed.”

The deal was brokered by Amazon U.K. film and TV strategy director Chris Bird and Conrad Riggs, the U.S. company’s head of TV production. Bird said: “It would be crazy for us to interfere with a creative process that has been so successful in the past.”

A new production company set up by Wilman, Clarkson, Hammond and May called W Chump & Sons will produce the Amazon show. The program will be U.K. based, and will include both studio sequences as well as on-location shoots around the world. There will be 12 episodes in each of the three seasons, and each episode will run for around an hour.

Work on the show will start after the team’s summer holiday. “We want to be on air next autumn (2016), so we’ll come back from our break and get cracking on it. Hopefully filming will start in the New Year,” Wilman told RadioTimes.

Wilman confirmed that a “non-compete” clause in his and Clarkson’s BBC contracts prevented them from working for another free-to-view U.K. broadcaster until 2017, which knocked U.K. commercial broadcaster ITV out of the bidding process.

“So the ITV thing was never really going to happen, but there has been lots of interest. We’ve been in talks for quite a few weeks now with different people, but in the end it all happened very quickly,” he said.

Another reason why the team may have avoided a broadcaster that relies on advertising revenue, rather than subscription revenue like Amazon Prime, is that there would have been commercial pressure to play nice when critiquing new vehicles, especially those manufactured by advertisers.

The BBC is in the process of revamping “Top Gear,” with radio DJ Chris Evans at the wheel, so wouldn’t Wilman have wanted to go head-to-head with his old show in the schedules?

“The child in me probably would, but actually all the scheduling competition stuff is becoming irrelevant. People will watch programs when they want to and not when they’re told to. This is very much the future of how we’ll watch TV,” he said.

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