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Top Gear trio Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have signed to present a new car show on the Amazon Prime streaming service in one of the biggest coups in TV history.

The programme will air for the first time next year and will be produced by former Top Gear executive Andy Wilman, an old school friend of Clarkson’s who is credited with revamping the format and turning it into the world’s most successful factual TV show.

The deal ends months of speculation about the future of the most bankable star on British TV following Clarkson’s spectacular departure from the BBC after 27 years.

I'm very excited to announce that Hammond, May and I have signed a deal with Amazon Prime, said Clarkson. Co-presenters Hammond and May also bowed out saying that working with Clarkson’s replacement - later revealed to be Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans - was “a non-starter.”

Today’s announcement will propel Amazon’s £79 a year subscription TV and movie content service Prime Video into the broadcast big league. No details of the trio’s deal have been released but one Amazon insider said: “We have made a significant investment.”

The global deal commits the former Top Gear presenters to three seasons of the as yet unnamed show. Work on the first season is expected to start in the Autumn. It is likely to go head to head with the BBC’s new version of Top Gear, which generates around £50 million a year for the Corporation. The new Amazon show will not feature Top Gear’s mysterious driver The Stig.

Jeremy Clarkson, who previously spoke of his sadness and deep regret at leaving the BBC said today: “I feel like I’ve climbed out of a bi-plane and into a spaceship.”Richard Hammond added: “Amazon? Oh yes. I have already been there. I got bitten by a bullet ant.” James May said: “We have become part of the new age of smart TV. Ironic, isn’t it?”

As well as the substantial financial rewards on offer, the three are said to have been attracted by a pledge by Amazon to give them a free creative rein to make the shows they want. The commitment follows years of controversy at the BBC with rows over a series of gaffes and insults, including most seriously Clarkson’s apparent use of the N-word when mumbling the “eeny meeny miny moe” nursery rhyme. The rows culminated in a trip to Argentina last year when a number plate alleged to refer to the Falklands War triggered riots that forced the presenters to flee the country. 

Jay Marine, vice president of Amazon Prime Video EU, said: “Customers told us they wanted to see the team back on screen, and we are excited to make that happen. “Millions of Prime members are already enjoying our ground-breaking original shows. We can’t wait to see what Jeremy, Richard, James and the team will create in what is sure to be one of the most globally anticipated shows of 2016.” The new version of Top Gear will lead a growing list of original TV content commissioned by Amazon for 2015 and 2016. They include US psychological thriller Hand of God starring Ron Perlman and Dana Delany, Eighties comedy Red Oaks, counterfactual post-Second World War drama The Man in the High Castle and docu-series, The New Yorker Presents. It is also making a fourth series of Victorian crime drama Ripper Street, starring Matthew Macfadyen.

Mr Marine added: “This is a golden age of television, a great time for TV makers and storytellers. Our approach is to give programme makers creative freedom to be innovative and make the shows they want to make. This is just the start, you should expect to see more world-leading talent and the biggest shows on Prime Video.”


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