The company behind Top Gear Live saw losses widen to almost £2m last year, as the popularity of the global motoring show fell after a forced rebrand following the fallout from Jeremy Clarkson’s fracas with a producer on the BBC2 programme.
The international tour, which was forced to rebrand as Clarkson, Hammond and May Live and strip all BBC branding following Clarkson’s departure from the corporation, racked up a loss of £1.7m in the year to the end of March.
“The company’s performance in the year has been affected by the well-publicised issues in respect of the Top Gear television series,” the company said. “[This] led to a rebranding of the already planned ‘Top Gear Live’ events to ‘Clarkson, Hammond and May Live’.”
The company said the loss, which widened significantly from £368,000 the previous year, “reflected the dip in activity while the business is being recalibrated”.
The loss of the Top Gear brand affected the popularity of the shows with revenues plummeting by almost a quarter from £8.7m to £6.7m.
The tour, which started in Belfast in May and marked the first public appearance of the trio after leaving Top Gear, took in 11 stops in the UK, Europe, Australia and South Africa.
The company, a joint venture between BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, and Brand Events, suggested fans outside Europe were the most affected by the loss of the Top Gear brand.
“Despite a challenging year, some events have performed well, including those in Sheffield, London and Poland,” the company said. “This was offset by weaker trading in respect of Johannesburg and Sydney.”
A breakdown of revenues shows that they rose by 16% to £2.2m in the UK but fell in Europe by 25% to £2.2m and across the rest of the world by 42% to £2.2m.
The accounts filed for the events company Sub Zero show that BBC Worldwide had to step in to financially support the series of live events fronted by the star who had caused them problems to the tune of more than £1.1m.
BBC Worldwide reimbursed the event company £657,000 for costs incurred through the postponement of four shows in Stavanger in 2015 – for which almost 20,000 fans had already paid between £45 and £100 to attend – because Clarkson was at that time suspended pending an investigation.
It has also emerged that the troubled business required a £400,000 loan from BBC Worldwide, which also made a “capital contribution” of £100,000. The interest bearing loan is due to be repaid to BBC Worldwide in March 2019.
“Sub Zero is a longstanding joint venture for BBC Worldwide, the investments made last year reflect our commitment to this business and the Top Gear brand,” said a spokeswoman for BBC Worldwide.
Sub Zero said that following the conclusion of this year’s tour, which ended with two nights at London’s O2 in November, it had moved to “invest significant time in planning the future direction of the business”.
Meanwhile Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May continue to commercially thrive signing a £160m three-series deal with Amazon to make the TV show The Grand Tour.
The BBC has had less luck, with the hugely popular Top Gear suffering plummeting ratings under its new host Chris Evans, who resigned after just one series.
In September, Matt LeBlanc, the Friends star who co-hosted the new-look show with Evans, signed a two-series deal to remain a host of the motoring show.
Top Gear has traditionally been the BBC’s biggest global brand with sales of the TV show, DVDs, books, live shows and other merchandise worth more than £50m annually.
The motoring show has a Guinness World Records entry as the most popular factual television programme in the world, watched at its peak by an audience of 350 million in 214 territories.