When you think about it, it is impressive. For the first time, a TV show watched by millions around the world has gone from a conventional broadcaster to a strictly online only service.
This is great news for Amazon, who are so thrilled that they can use the moment to push people into buying Prime membership, even if they don’t really need it.
It also cements my current view that conventional TV is dead. Long live internet TV.
But there are three caveats here, which will really hinder the new show in it’s success.
Firstly, Amazon is a home delivery company, not massively invested in it’s programming.
Yeah, sure, it’s got some original programmes, but when did you last hear a critic raving about an Amazon Prime Original Show before Top Gear? I’ll let that silence resonate around the room for a moment. Amazon still uses Prime, with a few added extras such as Kindle Unlimited and Prime Music (which are small change to such a large company) to get people to repeatedly fork out for the home delivery service (which now has to be over £20 for the otherwise free tier).
Secondly, the show will be nothing like Top Gear, let us not forget that Top Gear is still a brand wholly owned by the BBC. The new show will have to be very similar to, but at the same time nothing like, the current programme whose rights and intellectual property are owned by the BBC. Clarkson probably regrets selling those in 2012 now.
Thirdly, it was event television, now it isn’t.
One of the big draws of Top Gear has always been it’s Sunday night, 8pm slot. People from across the UK would tune in to BBC 2 and tweet, text their friends and talk about it on Monday morning around the water cooler. That goes out the window now. Unless Amazon does live streams of the show, repeating every hour for different time zones for people to watch, there’s no incentive to watch it at a set time. The only time this trend was broken was Breaking Bad on Netflix, where people were glued to their laptops every evening until the new episodes became available. This new version of “Top Gear” isn’t a conventional TV series, you don’t have to watch the next episode to find out what’s going on. It’s a very different beast.
Also, let’s just raise the fact that Amazon Prime Instant Video still isn’t in Canada. Seriously.
So, the reports of Amazon Prime suddenly becoming a huge internet streaming service on the back of three television presenters are massively overblown. Let’s also remember that if you’re tech savvy enough to know how to use Amazon Prime Instant Video, then you probably also know how to stream TV for free through illegitimate sources.