Jeremy Clarkson blocked from launching ITV auto show until April 2017

By REUTERS | 8 July 2015

LOS ANGELES: The race to sign the new motoring show from Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, the former presenters at hit BBC show "Top Gear," took a fresh twist Tuesday when it emerged that the three are blocked from appearing in a rival auto show on British broadcaster ITV until April 2017 because of a no-compete clause in their old BBC contracts.

The news is significant because the BBC is in the process of revamping "Top Gear," fronted by radio disc jockey Chris Evans, which it will re-launch in April next year.

This would give the show a year to establish itself with audiences before the ITV rival got off the grid. Evans presents the hit Channel 4 show "TFI Friday," which is popular with younger adults. Daily Mirror, quoting a source, said the clause would not stop them from signing with online platforms like Netflix or Amazon, which strengthens their hands in the negotiations.

The paper's source said: "Basically they could make a show for ITV, but not one about cars. A clause stops them leaving and making a rival. "It means Netflix or Amazon are favourites to sign up the team. There is a feeling that if they wait two years it gives Chris Evans a chance to steal a march on them and get his new 'Top Gear' show up and running, which means he would be settled in by then.

"It's a difficult decision but they hope to make up their minds soon after a number of meetings. ITV have made them a great offer." The BBC claims "Top Gear," which commands a worldwide audience estimated at more than 350 million, is the world's most popular reality program.

In March, the BBC decided not to renew Clarkson's contract for "Top Gear" after he assaulted the program's producer Oisin Tymon while on location. Subsequently, May, Hammond and "Top Gear" executive producer Andy Wilman decided to quit the show too. In May, it was reported that the four had met with Peter Fincham, the programming chief at commercial broadcaster ITV, about setting up camp there.