BBC 2’s ratings crashed on Sunday night after a scheduled episode of Top Gear was cancelled following Jeremy Clarkson’s suspension.
Clarkson and co are responsible for one of BBC 2’s most-watched programmes and had averaged around 6.2m viewers for its first seven episodes this year.
This Sunday’s replacement, a repeat of Royal Air Force Acrobatics documentary Red Arrows, pulled in just 1.3m viewers and an audience share of around 5.7 per cent.
The BBC has pulled the three remaining episodes of the show’s current season, pending an investigation into a “fracas” in which he is alleged to have assaulted a producer.
Yet Top Gear’s absence from the channel’s schedule is likely to punch a hole in its ratings which has recorded an average 2.7m viewers in the past 12 months, according to Broadcast. Nine of its 10 most-watched broadcasts in the last nine years have been episodes of Top Gear.
The show is also reported to be one of BBC iPlayer’s most popular offerings, accounting for 10 of the top 20 most watched programmes on the platform in 2013.
Clarkson can't seem to keep himself out of trouble – but with Top Gear bringing in around £20m per episode, his worth to the BBC is almost unsurpassed. Here’s what the BBC would lose if he was let go for good.
And yet, the BBC may also feel that the writing is on the wall. This one chart demonstrates how the show's popularity has faded in recent years.