Like a lot of you, I’m a fan of CBC’s hit show Dragon’s Den. I’m such a fan that I once snuck in and watched them filming an episode. Spoiler alert: it was hi-larious. Everyone was walking around in their underpants. Water guns were being squirted. People’s faces were meeting pies. It was exactly what you’d expect from a Three Stooges episode.
No, it wasn’t. I largely made up that last paragraph for your comedic amusement. I know. You are SHOCKED.
As the show has evolved, various wealthy people have joined and left the Dragon’s Den. Calgary based oil business guy Brett Wilson joined the show for the 3rd season, replacing Laurence Lewin after he kicked it. Robert Herjavec left after season 6, probably because he got lost in his gigantic house. And now, as we come to the cusp of season 9, we’re told that Bruce Croxon and Kevin O’Leary are leaving the fold. O’Leary and Jim Treliving were the only two original Dragons left from that crappy first season.
Like a lot of you reading this post, I first heard the news a couple weeks ago, shrugged that Croxon was leaving – since the guy really didn’t do or say much – and OPENLY WEPT THAT O’LEARY WAS ABANDONING US.
Frankly, Kevin O’Leary is a relentless shill. He shills his wealth management business (which is terrible, by the way, and I should really do a post on how bad it is), he shills his new mortgage business, and then he gets on camera and does his best impression of Scrooge McDuck. He has a persona on air, and he doesn’t deviate from it. It’s maddening if you disagree with his extreme views, but it’s also hilarious.
O’Leary played that character for his eight seasons on Dragon’s Den, bluntly telling pitchers what he thought of their terrible products. He reduced more than one female pitcher to tears. He offered to physically help pitchers kill their bad business ideas, especially board games, which were pretty clearly the idea he despised most.
And it was all entertaining as hell.
The contrast between O’Leary’s blunt honesty and Arlene Dickenson’s nice guy (gal?) persona made for terrific TV. She would nicely tell the pitcher that she didn’t like the idea, and then O’Leary would insult the guest and offer to kill their invention with a hammer. The fact that O’Leary was so ridiculous was one of the main reasons why people watched the show.
And now he’s gone, right in time for the season to end and for CBC to start showing its true cash cow, the NHL playoffs. These two seemingly unrelated topics have more in common than you’d think.
CBC is hurting. Canada’s national broadcaster is set to announce cuts of $130-$140 million, thanks to declines in advertising and projected pain from losing the NHL to Rogers next year. Job cuts on the English side of the broadcaster are projected to be more than 300, and programming is going to be cut significantly, starting with the sports nobody watches anyway. Oh, you watched Saturday afternoon slalom skiing live from Lake Louise? LIAR.
Approximately 70% of CBC’s funding comes from the feds, and it doesn’t even get close to making enough to pay the feds back. Most CBC programs aren’t very good, and they largely draw pretty poor ratings. Except for one major exception, and that’s Dragon’s Den.
Can we reason that O’Leary and Croxon asked for raises after last season and didn’t get them? Absolutely. Hell, maybe CBC brass figured that all the Dragons were rich enough for pay cuts. It’s certainly a possibility. Based on O’Leary’s television persona, I’d say it’s a very legitimate possibility.
Of course, a little extra money wouldn’t be a huge motivator to someone who already has a bunch of it. Nobody would argue that the Dragons do the show for the money CBC pays them. They do it because of the opportunities to invest in a few fantastic ideas a season, and because the concept is really freakin’ cool. But while money wouldn’t be a motivating factor, it still has to be a factor. I’d be pissed if I was one of the stars of the network’s shining jewel and wasn’t offered a raise.
I don’t know if money was the reason, but I probably won’t get too excited about watching next year. You guys know I heart me some David Chilton, but even he can’t replace O’Leary.