Top Gear is switching to BBC1 in attempt to safeguard licence fee
‘The time is right to move the world’s best motor show to the nation’s most popular channel’
Veteran car show Top Gear is switching to BBC1 after 43 years on BBC2 as part of the corporation’s drive to attract younger viewers and safeguard the future of the licence fee.
Following the success of new presenting line-up Freddie Flintoff, Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris, Top Gear is to follow in the footsteps of other hit shows including Line of Duty, Peaky Blinders and Great British Bake Off and make the transition from BBC2 to its bigger stablemate BBC1.
The BBC hopes it will reach an even wider audience than the latest series, which has hit a four-year high of 4.3million viewers thanks to the new line-up’s chemistry and stunts, such as Flintoff’s daredevil car bungee jump in a Rover Metro off a 500-foot dam.Advertisement
The move to BBC1 marks a turnaround in the show’s fortunes, which took a dip after Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond left in 2015 when Clarkson was sacked for punching a producer.
Top Gear’s had a bit of a bumpy ride since 2015:
Their replacements, Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc, failed to ignite the same reaction with the motoring show’s fans and it hit the ratings buffers, until the new trio of Harris, Flintoff and McGuinness were hired last year. Their bid to combine entertaining banter with what they called “emotional depth” made Top Gear BBC2’s highest-rated show of last year and put it among the top four shows for 16-34-year-olds during each week of its run. It is not known whether the show will move from its regular Sunday evening time slot.
Attracting younger audiences is crucial for the BBC at the moment as it faces a battle with the government over the future of its funding in the face of rivals such as streaming giants Netflix and Amazon. Culture secretary, Nicky Morgan, suggested the television licence could be abolished from 2027 and has launched a consultation on whether to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee.
The corporation is also facing cuts due to taking on free licence fees for over-75s so the future of Top Gear is vital as it is made by the BBC’s commercial wing BBC Studios and sold to over 100 countries around the world including the US and Australia.
Explaining the move to BBC1, director of BBC content Charlotte Moore said : “The time is right to move the world’s best motor show to the nation’s most popular channel and bring it to an even broader audience on BBC1. Freddie, Paddy and Chris have revitalised the hit series with their escapades and banter; and we couldn’t have asked for a better response to their series so far and the impact it’s had with young audiences.”
Losing Top Gear will be a blow for BBC2, which has aired the show since it began over four decades ago.
However BBC2 controller Patrick Holland said rejuvenating Top Gear was “one of my biggest priorities” and it was an “utter joy” to see the new presenters do well.
“From Peaky Blinders to Line of Duty and now Top Gear, BBC2 is a place where unique shows can evolve and thrive before moving to even broader audiences on BBC1, it’s a vital part of the BBC portfolio.”
News from The Guardian