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Robert Viglasky/Netflix (left), Amazon (right)
How about a race around the track?
ON THAT BOMBSHELL

Netflix and Amazon are pitting the returns of their biggest shows against each other

Ashley Rodriguez
By Ashley Rodriguez

Reporter

It’s Jeremy Clarkson versus the Queen.

When Netflix’s lavish royal drama The Crown returns to streaming TV today it will face off against another extravagantly priced British series, Amazon’s The Grand Tour, which is back for its second season on Dec. 8, as well. Both shows premiered last November to massive audiences and helped their respective services gain a global footing. Now they’re going head-to-head, something their rival networks have avoided with big shows until now.

The Grand Tour was Amazon’s first truly global series. The 2016 debut of the hotly anticipated motoring show, starring former BBC Top Gear presenters Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, served as a launch pad to push Prime Video from a handful countries out to most of the world. The service rolled out across 200 countries and territories, beginning with the premiere of The Grand Tour.

Amazon paid handsomely for it, too. The opening sequence, in which the guys meet up and drive red-white-and-blue Mustangs alongside $25 million worth of supercars, was reportedly one of the most expensive scenes ever filmed, with a price tag of $3.2 million. Netflix bid on the sought-after series as well, but chief content officer Ted Sarandos balked at the quarter of a billion dollars he says Amazon spent on it. Clarkson said it was far less, and other estimates place it closer to $160 million. (That’s chump change now compared to the $200 million or more Amazon is estimated to have spent on the Lord of the Rings TV rights.)

The Crown is said to be Netflix’s most expensive original series yet. Estimates placed the budget for the first two seasons around $150 million, though creator Peter Morgan said it was more like $100 million—in line with Netflix’s flagship show House of Cards.

The price paid off for the internet-TV platform, which rarely shies away from big budgets and plans to spend $8 billion on programming next year. The Crown swept at the Golden Globes, won actor John Lithgow an Emmy, and snagged other awards for its debut season. Even Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, reportedly enjoyed it, though she thinks parts are a tad overdramatic, according to the Daily Express.

Prestige TV like that attracts new talent—the network has since signed showrunners such as Shonda Rhymes and worked with creators like Steven Soderbergh (Netflix’s deep pockets don’t hurt either)—and elevates the perception of the programming and overall brand.

In early reviews, season two of The Crown is as widely praised, and appears to be just as opulent, as the first. Vulture called it “essential TV.” And The Grand Tour sounds to be settling into itself with season two.

It makes for an exciting weekend of viewing, whichever audiences choose. Some may even manage both. While all 10 new episodes of The Crown‘s second season are up on Netflix now, Amazon is releasing The Grand Tour in weekly installments. The first episode of the second season landed today, and the second hits on Dec. 15.

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