Nothing But the Truth

Building buzz the authentic way got this documentary channel in front of millions of eyes.
This story first appeared in the April 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Tom Neff, founder of The Documentary Channel in Nashville, Tennessee, finds himself in the unusual position of trying to hype a product that's typically not hyped. Documentary films, after all, have long been considered coldly objective windows into a particular facet of life. But now, as more documentaries hit the big screen--from March of the Penguins to An Inconvenient Truth--this form of filmmaking seems to be undergoing a Cinderella-style evolution.

Given the changing landscape, what's Neff's tactic? Stay authentic: Deliver the best possible documentaries to the greatest number of people--without all the Hollywood glitz and glamour. "We never wanted to present ourselves as a parade going down the street," says Neff, 52, who's an Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker. Keeping it real, it seems, is all the hype he needs: The channel was recently picked up by Dish Network, making it accessible to more than 13 million customers nationwide.

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