Yesterday was a pretty big day for people leaving high profile jobs. Top Gear and One Direction are two huge worldwide brands and within a few hours of each other they both announced that someone pretty key to each group would no longer be a part of those brands. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that these two events are somehow connected, but since they both happened so close to each other, it might be worth speculating what might happen next.
Lets kick off with Jeremy Clarkson, since that’s the situation that I know slightly more about. For those that have been living in a hole for the last few weeks, he was suspended by the BBC for being involved in a “fracas”, a word which we now know to mean “punched someone in the face”.
Now I’m not here to decide whether the BBC dropping Clarkson was wrong or right because honestly it doesn’t matter. It’s not up to me and it’s not up to you either, it’s up to the people at the BBC who dealt with the incident and the outcome is for them to decide. It also means that what happens next is almost entirely on their shoulders because the BBC has potentially screwed itself.
Top Gear is not just shown on the BBC, it’s shown worldwide on lots of different channels all over the place. Those channels, unlike the BBC, rely on advertising to survive and as a result buy in hugely popular shows like Top Gear so that they can then sell space in their ad breaks to advertisers at a higher price. When the BBC announced that they would not be showing the final episodes of the series these advertisers naturally wanted their money back from the TV channels. After all they had payed a premium to advertise their product or business during a very popular show that was now no longer being broadcast. The channels that bought in Top Gear have no choice but to pay this back and so they go to the BBC, the source of their problem, to get compensation for all the trouble they’ve given them. Now imagine this happening with hundred of channels all over the world and the BBC has already gotten itself into a bit of a pickle.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. What about the Top Gear Live shows that a due to take place at the end of this month? Some have already been postponed and may even have to cancelled. Even if the shows do go ahead with just Hammond and May there will still be lots of audience members who will want their ticket money back. Brand Events, who run the Top Gear Live shows with BBC Worldwide, will also probably want some sort of compensation as well seeing as they’ve just lost one of their most popular shows and their most valuable asset.
By sacking Jeremy Clarkson, the BBC have brought the whole brand under doubt because now it’s fate lies in the hands of Richard Hammond and James May. The BBC are keen for them to stay and continue presenting the show, after all they are two thirds of the team that made the show such a phenomenon. But both Hammond and May have already turned down a request to present the last three shows of the current series without Clarkson and both have hinted that they won’t want to continue with the show now that he’s been sacked.
They’re also under no obligation to continue either. At the end of this month their current contracts run out and they don’t have to renew them if they don’t want to. Andy Wilman, who is the Executive Producer for Top Gear and basically rebuilt the show with Jeremy Clarkson, is expected to decline to continue making episodes without it’s former presenter too. So what happens now?
Well here’s what I think will most likely happen. Clarkson will be snapped up by another channel, most likely ITV, and will establish himself there. Pretty quickly he’ll make an offer to Richard Hammond, James May and Andy Wilman to come and make another car program, probably called something like Ultimate Gear, which is the same as Top Gear in everything but it’s name. Instead of a tame racing driver called The Stig, they’ll probably have an untamed racing driver called The Gits (that’s Stig backwards incase you hadn’t noticed). It wouldn’t be surprising if they try and hire as many of the original team from the BBC to make the show in exactly the same way. Once word gets out that the ‘dream team’ is back together under a different name, that’s where the fans and the viewers will flock. After all the success of Top Gear wasn’t down to it being made by the BBC, it was down to it’s presenters and the format that they created.
Top Gear will continue on BBC2 for a while, probably as a complete reboot with a different set of presenters, and it will most likely return to being the reliable motoring show that reviews sensible cars. Pretty soon the viewers and ratings will drop off as it audience goes off in search of something more exciting.
The TV show will be down, there will be no more live arena shows and it doesn’t stop there. Top Gear is currently one of the BBC’s biggest brands, which spawns magazines, DVD’s and every kind of imaginable piece of merchandising right down to packets of Twiglets with the Stig on them. The television show currently brings in £50 million each year, but by sacking Clarkson they have potentially destroyed the money making formula and that’s going to be big hit for the BBC.
Meanwhile, Clarkson, Hammond and May will be sat on some other channel making a very similar car program, which admittedly may not do as well as Top Gear, but will probably bring in enough of an audience to keep them in the spotlight.
Now I’m not condoning Clarkson’s actions. The BBC have more information on the situation than I do and it’s their decision to make. That’s fine, the rest of us will just have to live with it. However I’m just looking at the potential fallout of this relatively small incident and it doesn’t look good for the BBC. They seem to be the people who will end up suffering the most. In fact, for them, I think it could be the biggest cock up… In The Wooorrrrlllldd.
And now to the other end of the spectrum we have Zayn Malik, who on the same day quit the astronomically popular boyband supergroup One Direction. This is the complete reverse situation. Zayn voluntarily left the band for his own reasons and in this case I don’t think the worldwide brand of One Direction will take a hit at all.
They still have four incredibly popular singers who will keep the band going and, unlike the Top Gear presenters who only really work as a unit, the One Direction boys almost seem interchangeable. In this case the name/brand of One Direction is enough to continue bringing in audiences and while there will be some disappointment over Zayn’s departure I don’t think the band’s fanbase is really going to take a hit. Of course I imagine it would have been a very different scenario if two or three members of the band had quit at the same time but when it’s just one it really isn’t much of an issue for them. In fact, the ease with which they’ve transformed from a five piece pop group into a four piece already has been remarkable and makes me wonder if they’ve had a strategy for this very situation in place for quite some time, just in case.
Really the person who is going to be most affected by this is Zayn Malik. That’s pretty understandable though since he’s leaving one of the world’s biggest pop groups to return to a normal life. After all, that’s what he wanted, but is he really going to be able to become a normal 22 year old?
Personally I have my doubts. Over the past five years he’s made millions and millions of pounds. He most likely has a house, if not several, with no mortgage. How many 22 year olds are in that position? He’s set for life really and if he’s careful will probably never have to work again. Additionally he may not want to be in the spotlight but that doesn’t mean that the press or his fans will just leave him alone. The press will most likely keep tabs on him, every so often hinting at a potential reunion. Meanwhile, now that he’s not busy being in a band, companies will jump on the opportunity to get him to promote their product or attend their events. Everywhere he goes his fans will ask him what it was like being in One Direction, they’ll want to know the inside stories and if he will ever go back. It won’t be anything like walking out of stage door after a 1D gig but it’s a hell of a lot of attention for a normal 22 year old to be getting.
Also, he’s 22 and he’s been in One Direction for the last five years. During that time he and his fellow band mates have risen to international fame and as a result they’ve had to be protected and somewhat mollycoddled. They’ve been told what to say, how to present themselves but most importantly they’ve been waited on hand and foot. Now that Zayn is stepping away from all that is he going to be able to function in the normal world? After all he’s missed out on the crucial stage from 18 to your early 20’s where real responsibility is placed on you for the first time and you actually have to take control of your life. Will he be able to cope? Is he going to be able to adjust to being a normal 22 year old or will he resort to being driven everywhere by a chauffeur, being told where to go and what to do by his assistants. I can’t exactly see him going down to the supermarket to get his food for the week or going out to his local pub for a night out with a few friends.
I honestly have no ill feelings for Zayn Malik, I wish him all the best and hope that he gets everything he wants. However I don’t think he has a normal life to return too, he’s going to have to build one from scratch and that is going to take a lot of hard work.
Follow me on Twitter @JoePituraRiley and come and say Hi!
Or if you’re more into Facebook then you can Like My Facebook Page.