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And after the antiques ...we've got car geeks; Beeb plans prime time BBC1 slot for Top Gear.

Byline: EXCLUSIVE BY NIGEL PAULEY

BEEB bosses are dangling a carrot in front of new Top Gear host Chris Evans: Pull in the viewers and we'll put you on BBC1.

A switch from BBC2 to the main channel would mean airing the all-gunsblazing show after genteel and easypaced programmes like Antiques Roadshow and Countryfile.

But executives believe that could be perfect for Top Gear. Nine million tune in to Countryfile and bosses believe the car show would command seven million if it goes out immediately afterwards.

But before moving it they want to see how the revamped show fares when it returns for an eight-episode run in May.

Switching it this year had been considered - but then dismissed as being "too much of a gamble", sources revealed. Insiders claimed the new-look show - also featuring Friends star Matt Le Blanc, racing driver Sabine Schmitz and The Stig - needs to hit between four and five million to justify moving to BBC1. A source said: "The feeling is it is best to see how the show goes in May.

"If it hits the ratings threshold they will press ahead with the move next year. It would have been too much of a gamble this year." Countryfile and Antiques Roadshow are seen as the perfect, undemanding Sunday night viewing for millions of Brits. Top Gear would then liven things up before the Sunday night drama.

Former BBC1 controller Charlotte Moore's new role as head of all main channels makes it easier to move the show. Previously, BBC insiders revealed, she clashed with ex-BBC2 controller Kim Shillinglaw after "poaching" the Great British Bake Off for BBC1. Switching channels would also suit BBC Worldwide, which owns the rights.

Top Gear - formerly fronted by Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond - rakes in PS50million a year in overseas sales and BBC Worldwide is keen to ensure Evans' version is seen by as many viewers as possible.

A source revealed: "Featuring Top Gear in a line-up of audience favourites like Countryfile and Antiques Roadshow would prove a ratings winner."

nigel.pauley@trinitymirror.com

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GEARING UP Le Blanc, Evans and The Stig

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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2016
Words:355
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