Why the BBC is standing by Chris Evans after he failed to make a success of 'Top Gear'

top gear

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Chris Evans and the "Top Gear" team.

Chris Evans may have under-delivered on his "Top Gear" commitments and overseen a dramatic decline in the BBC show's audience figures, but the UK broadcaster is still "grateful" for his work.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday morning as the BBC published its annual report, director general Tony Hall admitted that Evans' task of replacing Jeremy Clarkson was not easy, but his efforts were appreciated.

Hall told journalists: "Chris has closed the chapter on 'Top Gear'. He decided to resign. He said he gave the programme his best. I completely agree, he absolutely did, and it's no easy task relaunching a programme as important as 'Top Gear'. I am really grateful to him for all the work and energy he put into that."
His statement of support comes despite Business Insider revealing last week that Evans did not deliver on his contractual commitment to produce between 12 and 14 episodes of the motoring show this year.

The Radio Times reported today that this means the production team will not make a Christmas special. The seasonal specials became something of a fixture when the show was presented by Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, and would usually involve the trio embarking on an epic road trip.

Final audience figures for Evans' series of "Top Gear" were also published on Monday. They showed the programme averaged 3.9 million viewers across six episodes, which was 40% down on the 6.5 million who tuned into Clarkson's last series in 2015.

Hall argued that Evans' legacy will stand "Top Gear" in good stead as it prepares for its new series.

"When you look at the team he left behind, you can see a team that is going to take the programme on to great heights," the BBC director general said.The presenter will continue to host his Radio 2 breakfast show, where Hall said he does a "brilliant job."

Separately, Hall said the BBC has not been contacted by the police regarding a complaint alleging that Evans sexually assaulted a woman on Channel 4 show "The Big Breakfast" in the 1990s.

Demand high for "Top Gear" internationally as Jeremy Clarkson's sacking cuts BBC wage bill

The BBC's annual report showed that the departure of Clarkson and his presenting team did little to dampen demand for "Top Gear" among international broadcasters.

BBC Worldwide, the UK broadcaster's commercial arm, said it sold Evans' "Top Gear" series to 130 countries - 41 more than the previous season, which was spearheaded by Clarkson.

BBC Worldwide did not disclose how much revenue the programme generated, but the company's overall turnover stood at £1.03 billion ($1.4 billion) in the 12 months to the end of March 2016. This was up 2.8% on the same period last year.

Jeremy Clarkson

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Jeremy Clarkson.

Clarkson's high-profile departure from "Top Gear" also helped the BBC cut the amount it spends on presenters and actors in 2015/16.
Its so-called "talent spend" was £200 million in the 12 months to the end of March 2016, which represents an £8 million, or near-4%, reduction on the same period last year.

The reduction coincides with the departure of Clarkson in March 2015. His BBC contract was not renewed after he punched "Top Gear" producer Oisin Tymon because he was not served up a hot meal at the end of a long day filming.

Clarkson's co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond also left "Top Gear" last year, which is also likely to have contributed to a reduction in the BBC's talent pay. The trio are currently producing "Top Gear" rival "The Grand Tour" for Amazon Prime Instant Video.

The BBC never disclosed how much Clarkson, May, and Hammond earned precisely, but they would have been among the broadcaster's best paid stars.

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