Arlene Dickinson is heading back to Dragons' Den, with the firebrand venture capitalist rejoining the popular CBC-TV series for its upcoming 12th season.
CBC announced the return of the Calgary-based marketing and communications maven on Tuesday — bringing the total to six dragons, the show's biggest panel of investors ever.
High-profile investors Kevin O'Leary, Bruce Croxon, David Chilton and Dickinson left the show in 2014 and 2015 and, in recent years, Dragons' Den has seen a dip in viewership, with the current 11th season averaging 597,000 per episode.
That's down from an average viewership high point of 1.755 million per episode back in season four.
With any ongoing series over time, there will always be some decline, noted Jennifer Dettman, CBC's executive director of unscripted content.
"But for a series, we're really pleased how Canadians are still engaging with the show," she said, adding that the returning Dickinson is an "audience favourite."
After Dickinson's departure in 2015, she created and launched the District Ventures Capital fund — which invests in food and health-based initiatives — as well as programs to help entrepreneurs build new businesses.
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Now, "I want to put all that hard work to work in the Den," Dickinson told CBC News.
"I'm a big believer that if we support entrepreneurs in our country, we make a difference for our country. I believe there aren't enough voices that are supporting entrepreneurs in a loud, brave and courageous way."
Dragons' Den, hosted by CBC broadcaster Dianne Buckner, debuted in 2006. The program shines a light on aspiring Canadian entrepreneurs pitching business proposals to a panel of successful venture capitalists in hopes of landing financial investments.
The program "has helped raise profile for me and helped raise profile for issues I care about, like people trying to be entrepreneurs," Dickinson said.
"That's the beauty of a reality show: you get to talk about the things that matter to me. That's pretty cool."
She reunites with Jim Treliving — the show's sole original dragon — and will sit amongst newer colleagues Joe Mimran, Manjit Minhas, Michael Wekerle and Michele Romanow when Dragons' Den returns in fall 2017.
"The show is about doing and being who you are. These are real deals. These change lives," Dickinson said.
"It's not about made for TV. It's about made for life and made for business."