The Documentary Channel wants your film

The long-awaited Documentary Channel is only months away from its debut on the U.S. digital tier, and the hunt is on for content. President and head of programming Tom Neff says he'll be scouting for at least 300 docs to fill the schedule during the first year.
December 7, 2000

Indie doc-makers take note: the soon-to-be-launched Documentary Channel wants at least 300 edgy, unusual and ‘uncommercial’ films to fill its first-year, 24-hour schedule. Tom Neff, president and head of programming for the new U.S. digital channel, envisions it as a haven for filmmakers seeking to air their projects uncut. He says he has just begun his search for submissions, as *Dch will debut in the second quarter (possibly as early as April 2001).

Plans for *Dch have been in the works for years, but lack of financing held it back until recently, when Florida-based satellite company OlympuSAT signed on. Neff says that OlympuSAT, which holds a minority stake in the channel, has put together a package of 15 channels, including *Dch, to sell on the digital tier. So far, U.S.-based cable company Adelphia, which has a total of about 450,000 subscribers, has signed on for carriage of the Documentary Channel. In the meantime, *Dch is continuing to pursue the last of its funding, he adds.

Ideally, Neff says, he wants to air first-run docs, both series and one-offs.

License fees will average around US$5,000 to $7,000 per hour to start, though there is some flexibility to go higher. Neff notes that he’s also willing to offer finishing funds to producers, as well as the chance to market their videos. In return for a ‘filmmaker-friendly’ environment, Neff hopes doc-makers will also be accommodating, perhaps accepting fee payments in increments over the term of the license.

The Documentary Channel expects to air films from all over the world. Neff says international docs could constitute as much as one third of the total content. He has already established partnerships with such organizations as the British Film Office and the Australian Film Office, to help ensure a certain level of international input.

More information on the Documentary Channel is available at

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Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.