Is the BBC Giving Up On Top Gear In The USA

Tim Felce (Airwolfhound)
Tim Felce (Airwolfhound) /

Since the launch of BBC America, Top Gear has been a staple program. It has also been one of its top performers, but now it has disappeared.

It has been hard not to notice that even thought the new season of Top Gear is fast approaching, reruns of the show are few and far between. Once a strength of the lineup now seems out of favor. Is this a trend just in the USA or worldwide?

One of the reasons the BBC has put so much effort into keeping Top Gear, is the syndication rights. The show is one of the most profitable syndicated programs worldwide. Premier episodes in the USA received roughly half the viewers on BBC2. That is not insignificant, it makes it a top 10 program on premier nights for cable. Giving up on that audience seems to indicate something.

The obvious would be the overwhelming success and notoriety The Grand Tour has received. With Amazon’s largest customer base being in the USA, the show has elements to attract more viewers there. It has also been a complaint of many longtime Top Gear fans the American influence on TGT. The replacement of the Stig with NASCAR’s Mike Skinner has been a hot topic.

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The BBC could simply be taking Top Gear off the schedule while The Grand Tour runs their first series. The idea of putting older episodes on could simply be viewed as an unpaid advertisement for TGT. I imagine the BBC does not feel inclined to directly support their former presenters.

It still comes as a shock that with the contract extension the BBC gave American Matt LeBlanc, that the BBC would not be pushing the show in the former colonies. The BBC has not provided a premier date for the new series, but they have been filming for quite a while and normally would have begun the new season already. The longer the delay in the new series, the farther the show falls from memory.

There is an outlying possibility that might happen. The cast and staff of the American version of Top Gear have made no secret that they are still shopping their show. Could the BBC itself produce and air American Top Gear to compete with The Grand Tour? I would not be surprised if this happens.

In the end, the BBC has made several decisions of late that have left me scratching my head. I loved Top Gear, had continued to have hopes for the new incarnation of the show. That glimmer of hope I had has faded in the last two months with what has happened. The loss of the Top Gear track, the focus more on celebrity than cars among others.

If the BBC has given up on Top Gear in the USA, it is a huge mistake. I consider myself a car guy, but got turned onto other BBC shows from the promos during the show. My family got into Dr. Who and several specials on BBC America. Not having Top Gear on is not just costing them that audience, but many other shows too.

Next: What Was Top Gear Thinking With The New Teaser?