Dragons' Den



Evan Davis (voiceover only from 2024)

Dominic Byrne (Dragons' Den Online)


The Dragons:
Peter Jones (all series, but see Trivia)
Duncan Bannatyne (2005-15)
Simon Woodroffe (2005)
Rachel Elnaugh (2005)
Doug Richard (2005)
Theo Paphitis (2005-12, 2019, 2021)
Richard Farleigh (2006-7)
Deborah Meaden (2006-)
James Caan (2007-10)
Hilary Devey (2011-12)
Kelly Hoppen (2013-15)
Piers Linney (2013-15)
Nick Jenkins (2015-6)
Touker Suleyman (2015-)
Sarah Willingham (2015-6)
Jenny Campbell (2017-18)
Tej Lalvani (2017-21)
Sara Davies (2019-)
Steven Bartlett (2022-)
Gary Neville (2024, guest)
Emma Grede (2024, guest)

Online Dragons: Julie Meyer and Shaf Rasul


Sony Pictures International and BBC Manchester for BBC Two, 4 January 2005 to 12 April 2020

Sony Pictures International and BBC Manchester for BBC One, 1 April 2021 to present

Sport Relief Does Dragons' Den, BBC Two, 16 March 2010

Dragons' Den Online webcast at bbc.co.uk, March 2009 to 2010?, and BBC Two, 16 September to 19 October 2009 (6 episodes in 1 series)


In this ever-changing world in which we live in, it's sometimes hard to know whether a programme is a game show or not. But when the presenter gives interviews in which he says (and I quote), "It isn't a game show", then that's a dead giveaway. (If the BBC claimed that the Shipping Forecast wasn't a game show, we probably wouldn't believe them.)

Anyway, before this launched we described it as "a cross between Best Inventions and The E-millionaire Show", and now that we've actually seen it, that description pretty much stands. The format is simplicity itself: five venture capitalists (the "dragons" of the title) are placed in a room, would-be entrepreneurs pitch their ideas, and if the dragons are impressed, they may make an investment. Or not. That's pretty much all there is to it, but it works.

Image:Dragons den original cast.jpgThe original cast: host Evan Davis (centre) with, l-r: Peter Jones, Doug Richard, Rachel Elnaugh, Duncan Bannatyne, Simon Woodroffe

The one stipulation the producers make is that each entrepreneur must ask for a specific sum of money from the dragons, and must get at least that amount, or no investment can be made. Exactly what is being offered in return for this money, however, (usually a percentage stake in the budding company,) is open to negotiations; and if no single dragon is willing to part with the entire requested sum, they can split the deal between them. Amusingly, the dragons sit with large stacks of cash on the tables between them as the pitches are being made - although it's strictly a prop, and no cash is seen to be handed over (after all, the dragons don't have the luxury of commercial breaks in which to count out the cash).

It's a straightforward idea, executed without frills, interesting to watch and it may well change a few people's lives. Can't say fairer than that, and I'm afraid the stigma of being a g*** s*** is just something they'll have to live with. Not that it's held them back in any way - within a year, the show was being affectionately lampooned on sketch shows such as Dead Ringers, and by 2008 BBC Director-General Mark Byford cited Dragons' Den as an example of how one programme can transform the reputation of a broadcasting centre - in this case, the Manchester Entertainment department.

Key moments

Davis' statements of the bleeding obvious. Yes, we know Peter Jones is unhappy that the entrepreneur's just placed a ridiculous valuation of their business. We just heard him.


"I'm out." Several Dragons come with their own catchphrases; Touker Suleyman can be relied on to say "I don't get out of bed for 1%", while Theo Paphitis regularly makes references to handing over his offspring's inheritance.


Based on the Japanese format Money no Tora ("Money Tiger").

Theme music

Original theme credited to John Watt. Variations used during the programme arranged by Mike Westergaard.


The trailer for series eight began with a voiceover (not Evan Davis) saying, a bit sneerily, "This isn't a game show". Sorry, but your protests won't work here...

There have been several spin-off series in a "where are they now?" vein. 2008's Dragon's Den: The Dragons' Stories (a.k.a Dragon's Den: Outside The Den) combined profiles of the dragons with behind-the-scenes footage and updates on their investments. Lesley Sharp narrated the series, though Evan Davis appeared as a talking head. Sharp also voiced another 2008 special, Dragons' Den: Around the World, featuring clips from other countries' versions of the show. In 2009, Davis was back on voiceover duty for Dragons' Den: On Tour, which took a region-by-region approach to revisiting former Den visitors, but Sharp returned to narrate the 2010 series Dragons' Den: Where Are They Now?. The 2011 equivalent, How to Win in the Den, was narrated by Richard Bacon. Four episodes of Dragon's Den: Pitches to Riches aired in 2016, 2016, 2018 and 2019; the two 2016 episodes were presented by Richard Osman, while the 2018 episode was presented by Steph McGovern and the 2019 episode by Angela Scanlon. In 2020, a six-part "Best Ever Pitches" series narrated by Joe Lycett was produced in lieu of new episodes; the Covid-19 pandemic also meant that one episode in series 17 had to be postponed by two weeks and re-edited to remove a pitch for an anti-virus air purification unit. It was evidently a late decision, as clips from the excised pitch had already featured in the "next time" montage on the previous episode.

The BBC launched an online version in March 2009, with Dominic Byrne as host and Julie Meyer and Shaf Rasul as the dragons. The online version has a cap of £50,000.

Image:Dragons den rasul meyer.jpgOnline dragons Shaf Rasul and Julie Meyer

The first series was filmed in the attic space above a furniture shop in Stoke Newington, but subsequent series have used a replica set, first in a real disused warehouse in East London, and later at Pinewood Studios. This has allowed for certain subtle changes to occur between series - the Den has at various times had square pillars, round pillars, and no pillars at all, and eagle-eyed viewers may spot that the "trees" and "buildings" behind the frosted windows (which have themselves changed from rectangular to arched and back again) change position rather more often than one would normally expect! The production moved to Salford in 2012 and they didn't strain too hard to disguise the change, since the stairs now led down into the Den rather than up, and in 2013 they were replaced with a lift; the Den is supposedly on the third floor, though by this point they've messed around with it so much that it wouldn't make any difference if they told us it was in space. In real life, everything's on one level and they just insert footage of a lift mechanism as a linking device. Disappointingly, it would also appear that Evan Davis now films his bits separately, as he no longer features in the post-pitch interview segments (and in fact from 2024 he doesn't even appear in vision). The 2024 series meddled with the setting even more, with the windows now supposedly looking out on a twilight cityscape dotted with modern high-rise buildings. The lift indicator now suggests they're on the fourth floor, though that hardly explains the change of view since unless the lift shaft twists in some weird Willy Wonka-esque fashion, logically they should still be on the same side of the building. Just saying.

There's been a development...

Given that it would otherwise run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, the money stacked up on the dragons' side tables is mostly fake: the note on top is real, the rest is just prop notes.

How quickly are former dragons forgotten! In 2009, the subject of "Dragons on Dragons' Den" came up on Pointless. Of 100 people surveyed, only two came up with the name Rachel Elnaugh, one recalled Richard Farleigh, and nobody remembered Simon Woodroffe or Doug Richard. Sadly, neither did the contestants whose jackpot question this was, so they missed out on seven grand.

Board game Linkee, which failed to attract investment from the dragons, was later adapted as daytime quiz The Link.

Before they went with Hilary Devey, Claude Littner (The Apprentice) was considered for the role. We're not saying that they were wrong to, but it would have avoided the spectacle of one 2012 edition having only four dragons as a result of her being unwell. Although to be fair, an earlier entrepreneur had only had four dragons after James Caan opted out right after an alcohol pitch for religious reasons - and once, Deborah Meaden had to rule herself out immediately because the entrepreneur had approached her previously (they're not supposed to have had prior contact with the dragons). It seems lessons were learned; when Touker Souleyman fell ill for four episodes in 2019, and when Peter Jones had to self-isolate as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic for three episodes, Theo Paphitis returned as a guest dragon.

Some 2024 editions randomly had six dragons. Episodes three and six featured the guest dragons Gary Neville and Emma Grede but, in a sign that 'we haven't really thought this through', Neville and Grede reappeared on episodes nine and twelve... for the second half of each episode. That's how you tell us that you film an episode and a half a day without "telling" us you that film an episode and a half a day. Gary Neville's first episode had to be pulled from iPlayer and reedited to add a disclaimer to a pitch for an alternative medicine, for which the BBC subsequently apologised; and a pitch for a bladder care business in Emma Grede's second episode had a bloody great "Always consult a healthcare practitioner if you are experiencing any concerns about the frequency of urination." emblazoned across the pitch.

Future deputy leader of UKIP Rebecca Jane spent about ninety seconds on the programme in September 2012, and would later turn up on Big Brother.


Dragons' Den: Success from Pitch to Profit (hardback book)

Dragons' Den - Series 1 (R2 DVD)

Dragons' Den - Series 2 (R2 DVD)

Web links

BBC programme page

Wikipedia entry


A flyer advertising the show

See also

Weaver's Week review

Fortune: Million Pound Giveaway

State Your Case

Without Prejudice?

How to Apply

Are you an entrepreneur and want a dragon to help invest your investment? You can apply for either an online form or request a paper application form through e-mail at dragonsden.applications@bbc.co.uk

Application details are provided as a service to readers, but please note that all contestant enquiries should be directed to the named production company and not to UKGameshows.com. Addresses can be found on our list of contact details for production companies.


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