The New Top Gear May Have A Ratings Problem

Top Gear returned to the schedule a little over a week ago with a brand new cast and a big challenge ahead of it. The challenge was convincing people Top Gear would still be good, despite the upheaval, the cast changes and the rumors about problems on the set. While ratings were down a little bit during Top Gear’s first weekend on the air, it’s the show's second episode that could be proving the BBC has a ratings problem on its hands. Ratings were down a whopping 1/3 during Episode 2. 

In the UK, an average of 2.8 million total viewers watched Top Gear during the timeslot that it initially aired. That’s 1.6 million total viewers fewer than showed up for the first episode, according to The BBC. Unless you are the rare exception like Empire, it’s not uncommon for ratings to drop a little bit between Episode 1 and Episode 2. However, dropping a huge chunk of overall viewers is a lot more worrisome, especially if the numbers continue to fall in the coming weeks. 

Fighting back, show host Chris Evans made sure to note that people who look at Live+ Same day ratings are living in the past. He noted that really 9 million people, not a little over 4 million ended up watching the first Top Gear outing. Here’s what he had to say via Twitter.

The way Top Gear is being viewed is repositioning the way television is consumed. Last week 9 millions viewers. This week we shall see. Overnight television viewing figures for Top Gear have never been less relevant. Obviously some newspapers prefer to live in the past.

While it’s a fact that many viewers are choosing to watch their favorite shows a day or even days after they originally air, that’s not what we are really concerned about. What’s more concerning about the Week 2 numbers is that so many people who did watch the first episode live chose not to watch live during Episode 2. I suppose it’s possible that those 1.6 million viewers who didn’t watch live all DVR’d the episode and plan to watch tonight. While some DVR increase could still happen, there’s a larger likelihood that a lot of them watched Episode 1 and decided the new version of Top Gear wasn’t really for them. That could be a problem in the long run. 

Sure, it’s impressive that in Live+7 day numbers the show increased exponentially during Week 1 and that Top Gear remains one of the more popular shows on the BBC. However, if you can’t retain your audience over the long haul, the BBC might decide Top Gear is not the viable property it once was. The good news? If you did prefer the version that feature Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, Amazon is bringing those gents back in just a few short month. More details here. In the meantime, new episodes of Top Gear starring Chris Evans, Matt LeBlanc and others air on Sundays on the BBC and on Monday nights on BBC America in the States.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.