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Amazon signs 'Top Gear' stars Clarkson, Hammond and May for new online-only show

Four months after Jeremy Clarkson was fired from the BBC for punching a producer, Amazon confirms the three "Top Gear" presenters will be back on Amazon Prime Instant Video in 2016.

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Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May left the BBC's "Top Gear" in controversial circumstances. BBC

The three stars of the BBC's blockbuster motoring show "Top Gear" will return, in an online-only show created by Amazon, the online retailer has confirmed.

The popular trio made a high-profile exit from the BBC's "Top Gear" car programme earlier this year, following Clarkson's suspension for punching a producer. The move to Amazon follows months of speculation regarding Clarkson, Hammond and May's next move.

The show is unnamed for now, but will be produced by long-running "Top Gear" executive producer Andy Wilman. Amazon says the presenting team have committed to three seasons of the new programme, with the first season going into production "soon" and the debut episode arriving in 2016.

"I feel like I've climbed out of a bi-plane and into a spaceship," Clarkson said.

The signing is a major move for Amazon, which competes with Netflix in the streaming-TV market with its Amazon Prime Instant Video service. The new car show will only be available on this service, which can be accessed through a selection of smart TVs, mobile gadgets like smartphones and tablets, as well as Amazon's own Fire TV set-top box . Prime Instant Video is available as part of Amazon's overarching Prime subscription, which costs $99 a year in the US and £79 in the UK, and also includes music streaming and faster delivery options for physical items. Amazon Prime is not currently available in Australia.

Both Amazon and Netflix have, in the last few years, invested in creating bespoke TV shows for their customers in earnest, winning awards for shows such as Netflix's "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black", and Amazon Prime's "Transparent." Amazon has not revealed how much the signing of Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond has cost.

Following its reinvention in 2002, the BBC's "Top Gear" became the BBC's most valuable single asset, a programme sold worldwide that raked in millions for the corporation (which doesn't disclose exactly how much any given show makes). That all ended in March this year, however, when long-standing presenter Jeremy Clarkson topped previous controversies by striking a producer in a "fracas" over a sandwich.

The BBC has recruited presenter Chris Evans to take the lead on a new incarnation of the programme. In April the head of BBC Worldwide said, "I remain confident about the future of Top Gear."