First U.S. Presidential Debate Rejected Real-Time Viewer Voting From Second Screens

Jim Lehrer - McCain/Obama Debate - 2008
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Canadian "Dragon's Den" viewers on Wednesday night voted in real time using iPowow!, Canada's participation TV platform, that both U.S. election campaigns were turned down.

TORONTO – The campaigns for President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney may live and die by sifting through constant polling data.

But as Canadian TV viewers on Wednesday night got to weigh in with real-time voting during the CBC's Dragons' Den reality series, iPowow! Canada's participation TV platform wasn't available to the first Presidential debate between Obama and Romney on rival U.S. network stations and 24 hour news channels here.

“We presented (the voting technology) to them, and the networks were excited,” Colin Hornett, executive producer, North America at iPowow! USA, told the Hollywood Reporter.

“But the candidates had no interest in being part of a debate where the audience could weigh in and have an opinion,” Hornett added after the offer of the polling interface was made to the respective campaign teams.

Meanwhile, the CBC captured viewer opinion from second screen devices like mobile phones and computers in real-time as the Dragon's Den judges fielded business pitches from would-be entrepreneurs.

That’s the same technology iPowow! USA supplies to Speed TV for its Nascar RaceDay voting, and the Miss Universe live telecast to allow global viewers to vote and see the results instantly on-air.

Hornett said the Presidential debate represented a lost opportunity for greater politician and voter engagement.

“You’re watching the debate, voting and seeing the results on a second screen. That makes you focus,” he insisted.