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Grand Tour premiered on Amazon Prime Video Friday and broke viewership. (Amazon Photo Via Twitter)
Grand Tour premiered on Amazon Prime Video Friday and broke viewership. (Amazon Photo Via Twitter)

I guess we know why Amazon paid $250 million for the Top Gear guys’ newest project, The Grand Tour.

Amazon said the show, which follows Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May as they travel the world and indulge in their automotive dreams, broke viewership records for a premiere episode on Prime Video, surpassing The Man in the High Castle. Amazon didn’t say how many people watched the first episode, but put the figure in the millions.

Friday’s premiere date saw the most new Prime membership sign-ups than outside of Prime Day, Amazon’s shopping holiday. Amazon encouraged this by offering a one-day discount for new Prime members, dropping its annual fee from $99 to $79 for the first year.

“The guys are back, doing what they do best – the chemistry between Jeremy, Richard and James is what makes The Grand Tour so entertaining,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “Their creativity, along with the amazing production quality and 4K HDR streaming, has Prime members responding in a big way. Kudos and congrats to the whole team.”

Bezos, who rarely tweets, hyped the show prior to its debut last week, as did Clarkson.

The premiere comes more than a year after the team began filming the 12-episode season. New episodes will be released every Friday.

Amazon is preparing for a huge expansion of its Prime streaming video service, with The Grand Tour as a major selling point. Right now, Prime customers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Austria and Japan have access to The Grand Tour, and the show will premiere worldwide for Amazon customers in more than 200 countries and territories in December.

It’s unclear if the expansion will include other Amazon content beyond the existing countries where video service is offered, but Clarkson’s Twitter feed gives some hints.

With a growing list of signature shows and expanding reach, Amazon seems poised to further challenge industry leader Netflix, which is now available in more than 190 countries after a big expansion this past January.

In July, Amazon said it planned to double down on its spending for video content during the second half of 2016 compared to the same period last year. Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky added that the company will “nearly triple our offering to customers of new Amazon original TV shows and movies” compared to last year. 

In his annual letter to shareholders, Bezos spotlighted Amazon’s original shows, noting how they “feed the Prime flywheel.”

“These shows are great for customers, and they feed the Prime flywheel – Prime members who watch Prime Video are more likely to convert from a free trial to a paid membership, and more likely to renew their annual subscriptions,” Bezos wrote.

In the shareholders letter, Bezos also noted that Prime is one of three pillars of success at Amazon, in addition to its e-commerce marketplace business and cloud computing platform, Amazon Web Services. Some say that Amazon’s video arm could ultimately become the company’s fourth pillar.

Originally, Amazon’s original content was only available to annual Prime subscribers who pay $99 per year. In April, Amazon began offering a monthly $8.99 Prime subscription so members could access its video streaming service. The move was a direct swing at Netflix and its popular monthly subscription plan.

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