Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Could Clarkson, May & Hammond signal the end of traditional TV?

The BBC have announced that they will not be renewing Jeremy Clarkson’s contract following a "bit of a fracas” between the controversial motoring journalist and a BBC producer over the lack of a hot meal after a hard day’s filming .
Like him or loath him (and there cannot be many people who divide opinion like Clarkson), there is no denying the man’s popularity. The BBC has (had) a highly lucrative cash cow in the form of the Top Gear brand but many would argue that Clarkson (a formidable force when placed alongside his co-presenters, James May and Richard Hammond) is somewhat bigger than the brand.
I don’t know what it is about those three middle-aged, badly dressed, man-boys, but the prospect of Top Gear continuing without them doesn't sound like something that would work. A notion supported by James May who told journalists that Clarkson’s sacking was a “tragedy” and “the three of us come as a package”.
Of course the BBC has form in losing top TV talent following controversy. Perhaps Clarkson can take comfort that in recent weeks Jonathan Ross has returned to BBC Radio (providing holiday cover for the DJ Steve Wright) following his exile from the broadcaster in the wake of the Sachsgate scandal.
Rival TV companies are no-doubt hovering around Clarkson and his cohorts but in doing so they are certainly playing their cards close to their chests for the fear of sparking a bidding war. But the question we have to ask ourselves is does Clarkson, May and Hammond even need the BBC, or the ITV, Channel 4 or Sky for that matter?
Clarkson has a following of 3.83 million on Twitter. Similarly, both May and Hammond have more than 2 million followers each. As such they have enormous influence and traffic generating potential. Anything they produce together can be guaranteed a massive audience regardless of whether a major television company is behind them or not.
Could a company like Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube or iTunes provide a suitable home for the Top Gear crew (albeit under a different name)? These companies surely have the budget to match anything the BBC could throw at the programme and advertising and subscriptions would surely follow.
These far from traditional media houses might also provide something the BBC could never offer, greater artistic freedom (something Clarkson’s haters will undoubtedly be very worried about). If successful, what would stop the drain of talent and viewers from the more established broadcasters to the new media players?
At the very least the BBC have lost a major asset. At worst, this this mean the beginning of the end of traditional television broadcasting? Who would have thought such a threat would come from a fight over the lack of a steak dinner?

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