EXCLUSIVE: Top Gear is changing lanes. After being revitalized by a band of new presenters, the motoring show is poised to move from BBC Two to BBC One for the first time in its 18-year modern history.
Deadline can reveal that high-level talks about the switch took place in January and BBC director of content Charlotte Moore decided to elevate Top Gear after being impressed with its performance among young and underserved audiences. The move is yet to be finalized, but it is expected that Season 29 will air on BBC One later this year, with no changes to the show’s editorial direction. The BBC declined to comment.
It’s a sign of the swagger that has returned to the franchise since the arrival of hosts Andrew Flintoff, Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinness last year. The BBC is excited about the chemistry the presenters have developed in a short space of time and there has been enormous relief that the changes have been greeted with warm reviews and a big ratings boost.
Flintoff, Harris and McGuinness’ first season averaged 3.8M viewers last year, some 1.5M ahead of the previous Matt LeBlanc-fronted season. And the show returned in January with 4.2M viewers, which was up on 2018’s premiere. Crucially, the BBC has noted that Top Gear is performing better with young viewers, something it will hope to capitalize on by moving it to BBC One, where it will be exposed to a bigger audience.
The BBC One switch is also a sign that the Jeremy Clarkson years are well in Top Gear‘s rear-view mirror. Clarkson and former executive producer Andy Wilman were always reticent about the show moving to BBC One because they enjoyed being the main event on BBC Two, which has been the program’s home since it launched in its modern format in 2002. “We never went to BBC One, we always wanted to be a big dog on BBC Two,” Wilman told Deadline last year.
Top Gear joins an illustrious list of shows to have made the jump from BBC Two to BBC One. Cult drama Peaky Blinders moved last year and The Great British Bake Off switched in 2014, rising to become the biggest show on British television before it was poached by Channel 4 in 2017.
Top Gear also remains one of the BBC’s most lucrative brands. It will be front and center at the BBC Studios Showcase next week, at which the studio will entertain international buyers, while the National Audit Office remarked in January that the show was important to BBC Studios’ production revenue of £434M ($573) in 2018/19.
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