And now...the news! Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, a.k.a. the Top Gear blokes, have signed a new three-year deal to continue hosting the globally popular BBC2 program. The new deal specifies that Hammond and May will receive a share of Top Gear commercial revenue in exchange for promoting the show internationally.
According to the Guardian, the significance of this deal stems from the fact that while The Hamster and Captain Slow previously only received pay for their involvement in the hit show, Clarkson and his mate Andy Wilman were profiting greatly from the international marketing of the show. That's because Bedder 6, a joint venture set up five years ago between Clarkson, Wilman and the BBC owns the show's hugely lucrative commercial rights. The outfit derives its earnings from live Top Gear shows, DVD sales and worldwide marketing of the brand. Clarkson owns 30 percent of Bedder 6 while the BBC owns 50 percent and Wilman owns the remaining 20 percent.
In July, it was revealed that Clarkson's income jumped £900,000 (about $1.45M USD) following word that dividends from Bedder 6 increased from £6 million ($9.7M) last year to £9 million ($14.5M) this year. This, combined with his salary and his £350,000 ($566k) Bedder 6 fee, makes Clarkson the highest paid BBS personality, earning more than £3 million ($4.85M).
It should be noted that this news comes as many other BBC talent have received reduced pay amidst public scrutiny of the government-owned television operator. The BBC is quick to point out that the deal with the Top Gear hosts and Wilman was penned "without using a penny of license fee money." This new deal allows for Hammond and May to have a piece of the pie, without dipping into the BBC's budget. Even so, there has been some debate among British critics whether television personalities are worth these sorts of seven-figure deals – this, despite such salaries being commonplace in Hollywood.