The Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, has admitted it will be “very, very, very expensive” to launch a new motoring show with Jeremy Clarkson and his Top Gear co-stars after signing up the controversial trio in a multimillion-pound deal following their departure from the BBC.
The billionaire tech entrepreneur said viewers were enjoying a golden era of television and that the new Clarkson series would be a global success.
“We have a lot of things in the pipeline which I think viewers in the UK and around the world are going to love. And I think Clarkson’s new show is going to be one of those,” he told the Sunday Telegraph.
Bezos, who is worth an estimated $50bn , told the newspaper he was very excited about Clarkson’s move, but did not confirm if he had met him or his fellow presenters or how much they were being paid.
“They’re worth a lot, and they know it,” he said. The Financial Times has put the total cost to Amazon at $250m (£160m).
The company announced in July that it had signed up Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond for a new show to be broadcast via its on-demand TV channel.
The team, along with Top Gear’s former executive producer Andy Wilman, have signed a three-series deal, with the first broadcast due at some point in 2016.
Bezos said it was one of a number of new shows commissioned for viewers of Prime, who pay £79 a year in the UK to access programmes and get next-day delivery on orders.
“I think we’re in a golden age of television, so if you go back in time even just five years, you couldn’t get A-list talent to do TV serials, or if you could, it was a rare thing,” Bezos said. “But that’s flipped completely.”
Top Gear was a global hit for the BBC, generating an estimated £50m a year, and Amazon will be hoping that its new show will replicate that success.
In the same interview, Bezos hinted that UK shoppers could be among the first to receive their Amazon deliveries by drone. One of the research centres working on the Prime Air project is in Cambridge, and he said the UK’s regulatory conditions were promising.
“In the scheme of things the UK regulatory agencies have been very advanced,” he said. “The FAA [the US aviation regulator] is catching up a little here in the US, but the UK has been, I’d say, a very encouraging example of good regulation. I think we like what we see there.”
He refused, however, to be drawn on when the first parcels may be dropped off to consumers, saying “months sounds way too aggressive to me”.
The Guardian revealed in March that the company was testing its new delivery service at a secret site in Canada, after failing to persuade US regulators to allow it to launch drones in its home state of Washington. It is also rumoured to be launching a grocery delivery service in the UK as soon as next month, and has leased a warehouse in Surrey previously used by Tesco.
A New York Times article published on Saturday described Amazon as having a “singular way of working”, saying that employees were “held to standards that the company boasts are ‘unreasonably high’.”
A former employee told the newspaper: “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”
This article was written by Hilary Osborne, for theguardian.com on Sunday 16th August 2015 14.36 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010