Chris Evans’ Top Gear may have turned a corner in the overnight ratings after it bounced back from last week’s record low – the BBC2 show was watched by 2.68 million viewers, a 12.5% share of the audience, from 8pm on Sunday. That’s more than 300,000 viewers up from last week’s 2.34 million (10.4%), which was the show’s smallest audience since it was reinvented by Jeremy Clarkson back in 2002.
It is the first time the ratings have gone up for the show which has suffered a difficult reboot under Evans and his new team, from executive departures to reports of tension with his co-presenter, Matt LeBlanc, which surfaced again at the weekend. But it is still a long way down from the 4.3 million overnight audience who tuned into the launch episode of the new series, the first in its new incarnation since Radio 2 breakfast DJ Evans was handed responsibility for the show.
In another blow for the show, the consolidated audience for the previous week’s episode – which includes people who recorded it and watched it on catch-up in the following seven days – fell to 3.22 million, beaten by BBC2’s Great British Sewing Bee. It is believed to be only the second time in the last 10 years that Top Gear has not been the biggest show on BBC2 in a week of transmission. The Great British Sewing Bee had a total audience of 3.37 million. Evans has been highlighting the importance of catch-up viewing, saying before the launch that he would be “disappointed” if Top Gear had fewer than 5 million viewers. The consolidated audience for the show is now some way below that.
Sunday night’s audience will have been helped by the fact that it followed BBC2’s coverage of Glastonbury, the Sunday teatime programme featuring the first appearance at the festival by Jeff “Mr Blue Sky” Lynne. The music show had 2.4 million viewers from 6.30pm. Last week Top Gear had to make do with following a repeat of BBC2’s Dara and Ed’s Great Big Adventure, which could only manage 925,000 viewers. The show’s total audience, including people who record it and watch it in the next seven days, and on the BBC’s iPlayer, will be a million or two higher than its Sunday night rating.
Next week – the sixth and final episode of its new run – the show may face a challenge of a different sort. Top Gear is expected to be moved an hour and a half earlier if England beat Iceland at Euro 2016 on Monday night, which would line up a quarter-final clash with France kicking off at 8pm next Sunday.