UK
17/03/2015 07:59 GMT | Updated 17/03/2015 09:59 GMT

Jeremy Clarkson Suspension Costs BBC 4 Million Viewers In Usual 'Top Gear' Slot

The BBC lost nearly 4 million viewers on Sunday night after pulling the new series of Top Gear and suspending host Jeremy Clarkson.

Instead of the hugely popular motoring show, BBC2 aired 'Red Arrows: Inside The Bubble'.

Only 1.3 million people tuned in compared to the 5.1 million who watched the last episode of 'Top Gear'.

Clarkson was suspended after a "fracas" with a producer, allegedly over a steak dinner.

clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson leaves his West London home on Tuesday

The drop in figures is reflected by a petition to have him reinstated that looks to be heading towards the 1 million signature mark.

BBC executives are in a bit of a conundrum with a presenter who regularly attracts controversy but is hugely valuable to the corporation.

Clarkson is without doubt one of the main driving forces behind the show which has become a massively successful global franchise.

It has an estimated global audience of 350 million, is sold to 214 countries and brings in more money than almost any other BBC programme.

TOP GEAR IN NUMBERS

  • Clarkson was reported to have earned around £8 million from selling the BBC his 30% share in the programme
  • In 2013 Top Gear was the third best-selling ready made BBC show around the world, beaten only by nature series Planet Earth
  • It was first broadcast in its revamped format in 2002
  • It has run for 22 series
  • In 2003 presenter Jason Dawe was replaced by long-running co-host James May
  • The show has three million YouTube subscribers, 15 million Facebook fans, and 1.74 million Twitter followers
  • The show is the Guinness Book of Records holder for most watched factual programme in the world
  • Top Gear Magazine - one of the UK's top mens magazines - has a global circulation of 1.67 million, four million people use its website every month
  • Its live shows have attracted 1.5 million visitors

Clarkson himself has hinted he might move on from the BBC in his The Sun column.

“As you may have heard, I’ve been suspended by the BBC following a fracas at a North Yorkshire hotel,” he writes. “I don’t intend to dwell here on what happened then or what will happen in the future.

“One of the things that has cheered me is how many people have expressed support in the last few days. I’m touched and grateful.”

Whether or not the show could continue without him remains in doubt but two former Stigs disagreeing on what the future could hold.