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Nothing But the Truth

Building buzz the authentic way got this documentary channel in front of millions of eyes.

This story appears in the April 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. 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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