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Jeremy Clarkson Denies Netflix’s Claim That Amazon Spent $250 Million on ‘The Grand Tour’

Variety logo Variety 11/25/2016 Todd Spangler
© Provided by Variety

The war of words between Netflix and Amazon shifted into a new gear this week.

Jeremy Clarkson, one of the hosts of Amazon’s “The Grand Tour” globe-trotting auto show, disputed the claim by one of Netflix’s senior execs that the e-retailer paid a whopping $250 million for the series. “The Grand Tour” reunites Clarkson with his fellow “Top Gear” co-hosts, Richard Hammond and James May. The BBC fired Clarkson from the popular show following allegations that he assaulted a producer.

“Amazon spent far less than Netflix would have you believe,” Clarkson said in an interview published Wednesday with CNN. “It’s nowhere near as expensive as people have been saying.”

He was responding to a claim by Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who said in an interview with the Telegraph newspaper earlier this week that Amazon paid far more than the previously reported $160 million for the 12-episode series.

“That’s an under-reported number,” said Sarandos, who acknowledged that Netflix had bid for the show. “It was about a quarter of a billion dollars.”

In the CNN interview, Clarkson said that “of course” he knew what Amazon is spending on “The Grand Tour,” but declined to reveal the figure: “It’s just not a British thing,” he said, adding, “I mean, look at me. Do I look like I’m making $300 million a year?”

This past Monday, Amazon said “Grand Tour” broke Prime Video records after the first episode’s Nov. 18 premiere among members in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Austria and Germany. The company didn’t provide specific numbers except to say “millions” of users streamed the episode over the opening weekend, beating Prime Video’s previous record-holder, “The Man in the High Castle.”

Amazon last year announced a deal with the three former “Top Gear” hosts for a new show produced by the trio’s longtime executive producer, Andy Wilman. According to Amazon, on Nov. 18 when “The Grand Tour” debuted, total new Prime membership signups exceeded all previous days with the exception of Amazon’s Prime Day, when it has offered special discounts.

Netflix, meanwhile, has reportedly acquired streaming rights to the BBC’s revamped “Top Gear” with Matt LeBlanc. In the Telegraph interview, Sarandos tried to cast doubt on how successful “Grand Tour” would be: “It’ll be interesting with ‘Grand Tour’ to see how much of that is the players, who in many cases are big personalities, but what elements of ‘Top Gear’ will people miss?” he said.

Amazon has said “The Grand Tour” will be available to stream in 200 countries worldwide in December — leading to speculation that the ecommerce giant will also be launching Prime Video in a global challenge to Netflix. To date, Amazon has not confirmed its plans for international expansion beyond its current Prime Video footprint, although it quietly launched the service in Australia last week.

“Grand Tour” — which Clarkson dubbed “‘Top Gear’ in witness protection” — is the highest-rated TV show or movie by users on Amazon-owned IMDb. It currently has an overall rating of 9.6 out of 10 stars based on more than 13,000 ratings. It also currently has an audience score of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.

In Amazon’s “Grand Tour,” Clarkson, Hammond and May host the show from a travelling tent in locations around the world including Johannesburg, California, Scotland, Rotterdam, Lapland, Nashville, Whitby in North Yorkshire, Stuttgart and Dubai.

The first episode kicked off in California, when the trio set up camp at Dry Rabbit Lake in the Mojave Desert near Lucerne Valley, outside of L.A. There, they staged a “Burning Van” festival for thousands of fans, which was featured in the series opener.

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