I have often seen figures claiming that Top Gear’s estimated worldwide audience is 350 million (e.g here). I don't doubt that it's a popular show, but that seems a little high to me.

It reminds me of a common misconceptions:

  • the Super Bowl is watched by a billion people worldwide, when that is only the potential audience and the real figure is closer to 100 million, almost all of whom live in North America.
  • how the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was supposedly going to draw 2 billion viewers, but it was probably more like 300 million.

Another factor which makes me skeptical is that Top Gear only draws about 5 million viewers in the UK on a good day, or less than 10% of the country's population.

For Top Gear to draw 350 million viewers worldwide, that would mean it is drawing 5% of the entire world's population - a remarkably small drop-off, considering how many people in the world don't even own a television, let alone be interested in a show in a foreign language with many specifically British cultural references.

I have to stress the fact, that the real version of the claim is:

The British automotive show is seen by 350 million viewers in 170 countries every week.

This is what I'm skeptical about. (Not that, in overall 350 million people have seen the show.)

  • 2
    Note that the person who put the claim together might be performing all kinds of dodges such as attempting to estimate the number of people who've seen at least one episode and folding the various international spin-offs into the numbers. Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 23:52
  • 1
    It's not necessarily in a foreign language; might be dubbed for some markets. Anyway there are a lot of people in the world with English as a second/additional language.
    – A E
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 16:55
  • @Nichle If you have specific question I can address, please let me know. Thanks! BBC was not willing to answer general methodology questions. If I have more specific questions, they might answer. Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 1:46
  • @dmckee You are right about the everybody who's "seen at least one episode" part. The international spin-offs are not represented in the numbers (according to the BBC). Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 1:47
  • @AE I have no doubt this is the case. Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 1:47

1 Answer 1


Note: To write this answer, I contacted the BBC and BBC Studios by email. I am willing to forward the relevant emails. (Please ping me in chat.) To the best of my knowledge, the below information has not been published by the BBC. I did not contact CBS (the originator of the claim).

The BBC (or more specifically, BBC Studios1) clarified that 350 million viewers in 170 countries do not watch Top Gear every week.

Rather, the figure of 350 million viewers reflects the cumulative reach of the UK version of Top Gear over time. This means that anybody who has watched Top Gear in their lifetime is included in this estimate. Other Top Gear formats (e.g. international versions such as Top Gear Australia) are not included in the estimate. I received further clarification that people who watched Top Gear multiple times are only counted once.

The figure of 170 countries is because over Top Gear's lifetime, it has been sold to over 170 countries around the world.

BBC Studios stands by the statement that Top Gear has had an estimated worldwide audience of 350 million viewers.

Additionally, BBC Studios specifically stated that Top Gear is composed of multiple series of multiple episodes over a number of years. This increases the cumulative viewership. On the other hand, each annual Super Bowl and the Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton are one-off events that attract fewer overall viewers over time.

To answer the question:

Does Top Gear have 350 million viewers in 170 countries every week?

No, Top Gear does not have 350 million viewers weekly. The BBC confirmed this.

1BBC Studios is the commercial arm of the BBC. They are responsible for commercial aspects of BBC programs and broadcasts, including sales of programs and broadcasts to international territories.

  • If anybody has specific questions, let me know and I can ask the BBC. Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 1:50
  • 2
    Where was this clarification by BBC Studios released/published?
    – jwodder
    Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 2:56
  • @jwodder I contacted BBC Studios and the BBC in general by email. I am willing to forward you the relevant emails where this information was written to me. Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 5:47
  • @jwodder I forgot to include that in the answer! I have now edited this in. Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 5:49
  • @jwodder In the interest of full disclosure, the sender of forwarded emails cannot always be easily verified (also see the comment thread here that started the question). Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 5:53

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