Top Gear deal includes back catalogue

clarksonThe battle for Top Gear had two networks waiting with bated breath all last week.

After word had slipped out on Monday that Nine was close to clinching a deal, SBS was doing its best to defend its turf -understandable given it had picked up the title when nobody else wanted to touch it.

SBS had built the brand in Australia and made two local series in order to retain the rights to the UK original.

All week the public broadcaster was hoping its loyalty would see it triumph, but Nine had been chasing it for months. PBL Media already had the rights to the Top Gear Australia magazine through ACP Magazines, as well as the Top Gear Australia website.

Even as late as Friday morning SBS still didn’t know whether it had been successful or not. But it was privately fearing the worst.

BBC Worldwide Australia eventually handed over its prize possession to the more lucrative Nine Network, which had leant on media during the week to help seal the deal.

By early Friday afternoon, SBS had received the bad news and Nine instantly hit “send” on its Press Release.

SBS Managing Director Shaun Brown sought to keep up spirits with staff.

“Clearly this is disappointing news for SBS, but it is important to recognise that we are a lot bigger than just one program, however, successful it has been,” he wrote in an email.

His Press Release expressed both disappointment and pride in establishing the brand in Australia.

GTV9 General Manager Jeffrey Browne told TV Tonight the deal includes both the past and future of the motoring hit.

“As well as a series of the Australian version of that –and I won’t tell you who will be involved in that, but you’ll be spinning your wheels– it is a really big event for us,” he said.

“As well as the next UK series we bought the back catalogue. So you’ll be able to see Top Gear almost every week of the year.

“The only series not available is Series One. So it’s Series Two to Thirteen inclusive, which is a real coup for us.

“You can see the numbers it’s doing on SBS, nearly a million viewers, so we will add substantially to that. But we haven’t confirmed who’s hosting the Australian series.”

Shane Warne’s name has been speculated. Others are hoping Nine might secure Top Gear fanatic Eric Bana.

The Australian version is expected to continue with Freehand Productions, which is part-owned by BBC.

Top Gear Live returns to Sydney’s Acer Arena, also owned by PBL Media, next February.


  1. Heavy sigh. Nine will do what they always do, dumb it down, bland it up, and run it into the ground. The moment it draws fewer than a million viewers nationally they’ll play schedule ping pong with it until finding it on any given night is matter of good luck rather than good management. As for hosts, well they’ve still got to get some value out of the contract they signed with Daddo to host THIS afternoon. He couldn’t drive a news-talk show, maybe he can drive a car and talk at the same time. And don’t expect any review to say so much as a bad word about any car made by a Nine advertiser, even if it is a piece of Korean crap, rebadged as a Holden, that you wouldn’t accept as a gift.

  2. @scott – why would it be moved after 3-6 months? I doubt the classic eps will be in prime-time but we still don’t know their plans or what contact the have signed, maybe the classic eps will be used on GO!?

    As for the new eps there are only a hand full a season so I doubt it would be moved, unless it bombs out.

    Good time new eps start Nov 15 in the UK, I’ll be watching them this year and not in March after to winter games… yes I’m predicting they will not air this (or many of their top shows) until after the games which end Feb 28.

  3. I lost most of my interest in TG a while back now, and having it on Nine won’t win me back. 13 seasons already? It’s gotta be near the end of it’s rope even in Old Blighty. I agree with other posters that Nlne will likely kill it. Sad but almost inevitable I’m afraid.

  4. Here we go, Nine will most likely do the overkill thing and put reruns on 3-4 times a week.

    I love Top Gear and I dont mind re-runs on SBS but wont be watching it on nine.

  5. I for one will not be watching it on the nine network. I give it about 3 to 6 months before we find it on late nite about 11pm and the reason? so many damn ads . bye bye top gear its been fun

  6. Well I for one will not bother watching it on Nine.

    I have enjoyed watching it on SBS, but I fear Nine will screw it up just like everything else it.

    Get ready for it to be placed in a different time slot each week, eventually being relegated to 11.30 on a mid-week night; packed full of ads; starting 10 minutes later than the EPG says; edits galore; etc. etc.

  7. I wouldn’t mind a bunch of classic TG each week, depending how they edit them. I would then be able to record them and not have to watch nine later when they get re0run into the ground.

  8. well i hope 9 don’t put 3 nightly repeats on like they do with 2 1/2 men. I hate how 9 can wreck a perfectly good show by over playing it, just like commercial overplay radio (AKA FOXFM)

  9. Do 9 really reckon they are going to pull the numbers SBS does, as soon as people get sick of seeing more ads than program watch the numbers drop.

  10. @Jeremy: actually the current-format UK Top Gear did indeed make a (very wise) cast change after season 1, but the cast has been stable since then.

  11. @Crag (& others): There’s at least 4 different versions of Top Gear offered out by the BBC.
    * There’s the full version, ~60 minutes long.
    * There’s the international version, 52~55 minutes long, which mostly cuts the ‘news’ segment. This is allegedly the version SBS has been showing, though I’m sure on a few occasions they (or someone) has cut more than that.
    * There’s the ‘Dave’ version, shown on UKTV’s ‘Dave’ FreeView commercial channel in the UK – this is ~46 minutes long, with the ‘news’ section cut and additional edits here & there to trim a further 8~10 minutes. Often it has bits of the between-segment banter edited out, and sometimes the “Star …” segment.
    * Finally, there’s a ~30 minute version edited for BBC World, with huge hacks everywhere. It end up being basically the intro, major stunt / theme / review, and outro, with any other bits left in at random to pad out the 30 minutes.

    Given that on commercial TV an hour-long show in prime-time is effectively 41~42 minutes of programme + the maximum allowed 16 minutes of ads + 2~3 minutes of promo/news/other crap, my guess it they’ll show the Dave version. They _may_ show the 50 minute version at first, to lull fans into a false sense of security, but then it’ll eventually be cut back to the Dave version, and probably edited at that.

  12. @GKtown – yes more questions,

    Does the contract mean they will have to run 70 min eps to fit in the ads without edited or will nine get a version from BBC edited down to 45 mins? (the version SBS aired was edited by BBC for international customers)

    Will they have to run all new eps in order with no ‘classic’ eps to extend the season?

    And what time frame will they have to air the new eps after the BBC does?

  13. As I have said before, ABC and SBS need extra money from the Federal Government to retain programs they currently have and to fend off predatory bidding from commercial networks, so the Top Gear controversy will not happen again.
    @ Paull: apparently Jane Turner and Gina Riley are planning another new series of Kath & Kim, once Gina’s commitment to the stage musical Chicago finishes (the current season in Melbourne ends in December).

  14. The main thing that worries me about the move to nine is the time limits there. The last thing I want them doing is editing each episode down from 60 minutes to 40 minutes so that they can have more ads.

  15. if Nine broadcasts it in a 90 minute slot, it might be ok – if not, they will be just cutting more out than SBS already do, so viewers will just (continue) to go to the internet for episodes

  16. I’m no fan of SBS, but I still think this is very unfair. SBS built that show from the ground up in Australia, and deserves some loyalty for that from BBC. But clearly it’s all about the money.

    The ironic thing here is that who’s to say this show will last long on Nine anyway. The commercial networks have a history of poaching things from the Government/ semi-government owned networks, and leaving them for dead. Two examples that come to mind are Heartbeat, once popular on ABC in the 90s, 7 took it over and it’s been barely seen, And Kath & Kim! 7 made one extra season for that show, and it hasn’t been seen since? What’s with that?

  17. You know what this means, one new eps followed by 3 re-runs to make the new eps last 8 months instead of 8 weeks!

    So what does this mean for the classic eps now airing on SBS? When will they have to stop airing them? Also will they run the full 50+ minutes or be edited for more ads? Will they cut anything that is not friendly to car manufacturers that advertise on Nine or GO!?

  18. “….made two local series in order to retain the rights to the UK original”

    Is that true? Was the only reason the dreadful local version got millions of dollars poured into it an attempt to hold on to broadcast rights to the UK show?

    If the BBC’s negotiating like that these days, then shame on them.

  19. Big deal that Nine has the back catalogue. What’re the chances they’ll actually show any of it? And they intend to change the cast? How many cast changes has the current version of Top Gear had? Not one. Tip for a successful, enduring program – don’t change the cast every season. Find the right guys first time round.

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