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Matt LeBlanc to Return as Host of ‘Top Gear,’ BBC Confirms

Matt LeBlanc will return to host another season of hit automotive show “Top Gear,” the BBC confirmed Monday, as the program braces for heavy competition from a new car-themed series from Amazon featuring “Top Gear’s” former presenters.

LeBlanc signed up for two more seasons, the BBC said. The Sun tabloid reported that the deal was worth 2 million pounds ($2.6 million), but the pubcaster did not comment on LeBlanc’s salary.

The former “Friends” star’s return next year as “Top Gear” front man will be without his original co-host, Chris Evans, who quit earlier this summer amid concern over the show’s slide in the ratings and negative reaction from fans and critics alike to his hosting. Viewership hit a dismal 1.9 million for the 2016 finale in July, the program’s worst results since its 2002 relaunch.

LeBlanc will be joined for the 2017 season, “Top Gear’s” 24th in total, by Chris Harris and Rory Reid, with regular appearances from Eddie Jordan, Sabine Schmitz and The Stig, the BBC said.

“Matt was hugely popular with ‘Top Gear’ viewers last series with his humor, warmth and obvious passion for cars and for the show, so I couldn’t be more delighted that he’s agreed to come back and do more for us,” said Mark Linsey, the director of BBC Studios.

LeBlanc and Evans were hired to replace popular hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond after the BBC fired Clarkson in 2015 for punching a producer. Clarkson, May and Hammond are now set to return to the screen in November in “Grand Tour,” a rival automotive show on Amazon Prime Video.

The retooled “Top Gear” with Evans and LeBlanc debuted at the end of May with an episode that drew an average of 4.4 million viewers in Britain, below the 5.3 million who tuned in for the final installment featuring Clarkson, May and Hammond. Viewership dropped practically every week thereafter.

The show also saw a dip in popularity on BBC America, with just 388,000 viewers for the season opener. The debut episode of the previous, Clarkson-led season had drawn 530,000 viewers on BBC America.

Next season’s “Top Gear” will be executive-produced by Clare Pizey, with Alex Renton as series editor.

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