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Jeremy Clarkson and the “Top Gear” team are heading to Amazon

By Adam Epstein

Jeremy Clarkson has found a new home at Amazon.

The face of the BBC’s once-insanely popular auto series Top Gear, who was fired in March for allegedly assaulting a producer, will create a new show about cars along with former co-hosts, James May and Richard Hammond.

“I feel like I’ve climbed out of a bi-plane and into a spaceship,” Clarkson said. Production will begin soon, and the show should be available to Amazon Prime Instant Video customers sometime in 2016.

Only a few weeks ago, Netflix was believed to be the frontrunner to land Clarkson and company. According to Variety, the company made a “sizable offer—said to be for multiple seasons.” It’s possible that the asking price simply grew too high for Netflix, which says it calculates the “efficiency” of its content to maximize the ratio of viewing time to cost. Plus, Netflix already has a whopping 36 original shows lined up for 2015 and 2016—25 more than it had last year.

But Netflix’s loss is Amazon’s gain. It’s a good match: Amazon is a fairly popular service in the UK, and Top Gear, in addition to being a hit TV show, also performed well on the internet. It was routinely one of the most played programs on the BBC’s iPlayer streaming service, racking up 3.6 million viewers for its top two episodes in March—more than any other series (pdf). The BBC estimates that Top Gear has a global audience of 350 million people.

Not to mention that Amazon is free from advertising pressure, so there should be more leeway for the divisive Clarkson to be himself, provided he refrains from punching people.

Netflix, with its 62 million subscribers spread out across 50 countries, could have given the show a larger audience. Amazon Prime Instant Video is only available in the US, UK, Japan, Germany, and Austria. Amazon does not disclose its subscriber numbers, but the most recent estimates indicate it has about 40 to 50 million Prime subscribers around the world, many of whom don’t take advantage of Prime’s video offerings.

Amazon will also be allowed to license the show to local broadcasters and streaming services in other countries, according to the Wall Street Journal.