|Launched||November 8, 1972|
|Owned by||Home Box Office, Inc.|
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)|
(downscaled to letterboxed 480i for the network's SDTV channel feeds)
|Slogan||It's what connects us.|
|Headquarters||New York City, New York|
|Available on all U.S. cable systems||Consult your local cable provider or program listings source for channel availability|
|Apple TV Channels||Over-the-top TV|
(active for existing subscribers who signed up prior to HBO Max's launch; HBO Max access included at no extra charge)
|Amazon Video Channels||Over-the-top TV|
(requires subscription or trial to access content)
|AT&T TV||Internet Protocol television
|Hulu + Live TV||Internet Protocol television
|YouTube TV||Internet Protocol television
Home Box Office (HBO) is an American pay television network owned by WarnerMedia Entertainment and the flagship property of parent subsidiary Home Box Office, Inc. Programming featured on the network consists primarily of theatrically released motion pictures and original television programs, along with made-for-cable movies, documentaries and occasional comedy and concert specials.
Headquartered at Home Box Office, Inc.'s facilities inside the WarnerMedia corporate headquarters at 30 Hudson Yards in Manhattan's West Side district, HBO is the oldest and longest continuously operating subscription television service (basic or premium) in the United States, having been in operation since November 8, 1972. The overall HBO business unit is one of WarnerMedia's most profitable assets, generating operating income of nearly $2 billion each year; HBO has 140 million subscribers worldwide as of 2018 .
The network operates seven 24-hour, linear multiplex channels as well as video on demand and streaming platforms, including HBO Go (a TV Everywhere service for HBO's linear television subscribers that launched in February 2010) and HBO Now (which launched in April 2015, and has over 5 million subscribers in the United States as of February 2018 ), and its content is the centerpiece of HBO Max, an expanded streaming platform that also includes separate original programming and content from other WarnerMedia properties. The HBO linear channels are not accessible on either streaming service, but continue to be available to existing subscribers of traditional and virtual pay TV providers, and to Apple and Amazon customers through streaming partnerships with those companies.
As of September 2018multichannel television provider (34.939 million of which receive HBO's primary channel at minimum), giving it the largest subscriber total of any premium channel in the United States. (From 2006 to 2018, HBO was edged out for this distinction by Starz Encore--currently owned by Lionsgate subsidiary Starz Inc.--which, according to February 2015 Nielsen estimates, had 40.54 million pay subscribers vs. the 35.8 million subscribers that HBO had at the time.) In addition to its U.S. subscriber base, HBO distributes its programming content in at least 151 countries worldwide., HBO's programming was available to approximately 35.656 million U.S. households that had a subscription to a
HBO subscribers generally pay for an extra tier of service that includes other cable- and satellite-exclusive channels even before paying for the channel itself (though HBO often prices all seven of its channels together in a single package). However, a regulation imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires that cable providers allow subscribers to just purchase "limited" basic cable (a base programming tier that includes local, and in some areas, out-of-market broadcast stations and public, educational, and government access channels) and premium services such as HBO, without subscribing to expanded service. (Comcast is the only major provider to have purposefully offered the network in such a manner utilizing this law, as it offered a bundled cable/Internet package that included limited basic service and HBO from October 2013 to July 2014, or until January of the latter year in some markets.) Cable providers can require the use of a converter box--usually digital--in order to receive HBO.
HBO also provides its content direct-to-consumer through digital media: through Home Box Office, Inc., it maintains HBO Go, a video on demand (VOD) streaming service launched in February 2010, that is available as a website and slate of mobile apps exclusively to existing subscribers of the linear channel suite; and HBO Now, a separate, but virtually identical subscription streaming platform, which launched in April 2015 and is sold without requiring customers to have an existing subscription to the HBO television service. A tertiary, co-branded streaming service, HBO Max, launched on May 27, 2020, and is operated by sister subsidiary WarnerMedia Direct LLC. All three services provide content from the linear HBO television channel (including original series, films, comedy specials and documentaries, and theatrical movies from the channel's various film distributors, including sister studio Warner Bros. Pictures); HBO Max, however, augments HBO linear content with a proprietary slate of original programming and content sourced primarily from the libraries of Warner Bros. Television and WarnerMedia's broadcast and basic cable networks (including The CW, CNN, TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network/Adult Swim). HBO also offers a la carte subscriptions independent of a traditional pay television platform through Apple TV Channels and Amazon Video Channels. In addition to its VOD content library, the subscription channels purchasable via Apple (which include the East and West Coast feeds of the primary HBO channel) and Amazon Video (which includes both coastal feeds of the main channel and the East Coast feeds of all six HBO multiplex channels) offer live feeds of HBO's linear television services, which are not viewable over its proprietary streaming platforms.
HBO also maintains near-ubiquitous distribution in hotels across the United States through agreements with DirecTV, Echostar, SONIFI Solutions, Satellite Management Services, Inc., Telerent Leasing Corporation, Total Media Concepts and World Cinema as well as cable providers that maintain hospitality service arrangements with individual hotels and local franchises of national hotel/motel chains. Although Home Box Office, Inc. does not keep counts of its national hotel distribution, LodgeNet (now SONIFI Solutions) estimated in 2008 that HBO was available to 98% of all hotels that at least receive cable or satellite service via the content and connectivity solutions company. Since June 2018, through a content partnership with Enseo, HBO Go is also distributed to some Marriott International hotels around the U.S.; guests staying in Marriott hotels that have access to HBO Go on connected in-room TV sets are not required to sign into the system in order to access content.
Many HBO programs have been syndicated to other networks and broadcast television stations (usually after some editing for running time and/or content that indecency regulations enforced by jurisdictional telecommunications agencies or self-imposed by network Standards and Practices departments may prohibit from airing on broadcast and cable networks), and a number of HBO-produced series and films have been released on DVD. Since HBO's more successful series (most notably shows such as Sex and the City, The Sopranos, The Wire, Entourage, Six Feet Under, Oz, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones and True Blood) air on terrestrial broadcasters in other countries (such as in Canada, Australia and much of Europe--including the United Kingdom), HBO's programming has the potential of being exposed to a higher percentage of the population of those countries compared to the United States.
Because of the cost of HBO (which is the most expensive of the U.S. premium services, costing a monthly fee as of 2015Cinemax), many Americans only view HBO programs through DVDs or in basic cable or broadcast syndication--months or even years after these programs have first aired on the network--and with editing for both content and to allow advertising, although several series have filmed alternate "clean" scenes intended for syndication runs.between $15 and $20 depending on the provider and packaging with sister network
HBO's origins trace to December 1, 1965, when Charles Dolan--who had already done pioneering work in the commercial use of cables and had developed Teleguide, a closed-circuit tourist information television system distributed to hotels in the New York metropolitan area--became one of three applicants that the New York City Council selected for franchise permits to build cable television systems in New York City, joined by TelePrompTer Corporation (which was assigned most of Upper Manhattan) and CATV Enterprises Inc. (assigned to a portion of the city's Upper West Side, extending north of the Harlem River, and The Bronx's Riverdale neighborhood). The cable system franchise awarded to Dolan encompassed the Lower Manhattan section of New York City (traversing southward from 79th Street on the Upper East Side to 86th Street on the Upper West Side).
Manhattan Cable TV Services--renamed Sterling Manhattan Cable Television in January 1971, and operated as a subsidiary of Dolan-owned Sterling Information Services--began limited cable service in September 1966 as the first urban underground cable television system in the United States. Rather than stringing cable on telephone poles or using microwave antennas to receive the signals, ahead of the franchise grant, Sterling had cable lines laid beneath the streets. This decision was in compliance with a longstanding New York City Council ordinance--originally implemented to prevent broad-scale telephone and telegraph outages, after a severe blizzard affecting the Northeastern United States in March 1888 had caused widespread damage to above-ground utility lines in the area--required that all electrical and telecommunication wiring be laid underground to limit service disruptions during bad weather, and because reception of television signals was impaired by the multitude of tall buildings on Manhattan Island.
Despite having the financial backing of Time-Life, Inc. (then the book publishing unit of Time Inc.), which was just entering into cable system ownership as Dolan's company launched, Sterling Manhattan consistently lost money throughout its first six years of operation through a combination of the expenses it incurred with running cable wiring underground and into buildings throughout Manhattan (costing as much as $300,000 per mile), and the company's difficulties in expanding its limited subscriber base (by 1967, subscribership for the Sterling system totaled around 400 customers). As a stipulation for allowing it to continue lending money for the venture, in 1969, Dolan agreed to sell a 44.5% share in Sterling Manhattan to Time-Life.
In the summer of 1971, while on a family vacation en route to France aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2, Dolan began conceiving ideas to help make Sterling Manhattan profitable. He came up with a proposal for a cable-originated television channel, which he called "The Green Channel", a subscription service that would offer unedited theatrical movies licensed from the major Hollywood film studios and live sporting events, all presented without interruptions by advertising. Under the proposal, the service's start-up costs would be offset by having Sterling enter into carriage agreements with other cable television providers, and draw revenue from fees charged to cable subscribers who added the channel onto their existing service (which then consisted exclusively of local and imported broadcast stations). Dolan later presented his idea to management at Time-Life, who, despite the potential benefit it might have for the company's existing cable television assets, were initially hesitant to consider the idea. In the early 1970s, the cable television industry was not very profitable, and was under constant scrutiny from FCC regulators and the major broadcast television networks (CBS, NBC and ABC), who saw cable as a threat to their viability. Undeterred, Dolan managed to persuade Time-Life to assist him in backing the project.
After the Federal Communications Commission ruled that local governments could not restrict the operation of subscription television services in cable franchise terms, in July 1971, Sterling informed the FCC that it planned to operate a cable-originated pay television service. Time/Sterling was required to obtain authorization because the New York City Council franchise grant to Sterling restricted the company from offering such a service unless it got the FCC to approve of the action, and asked the agency to issue a ruling removing barriers to operate such a service. Sterling indicated that a subscription television operation would also help Sterling Manhattan fund its then-newly-launched local origination channel, on which it incurred losses of $1 million in start-up costs on top of Sterling's annual operating losses of $250,000. On September 10, 1971, the FCC preemptively authorized Time-Life and Sterling Manhattan Cable to operate a pay television service. On November 2, 1971, Time Inc.'s board of directors approved the "Green Channel" proposal, agreeing to give Dolan a $150,000 development grant for the project.
To gauge potential consumer interest in a subscription television service, Time-Life sent out a direct-mail research brochure to residents in six U.S. cities. An overwhelming majority of those surveyed (approximately 99%) opposed the idea of paying for an additional channel, with only 1.2% favoring the concept and expressing interest in being a paid subscriber. In a second survey conducted by an independent consultant, 4% of respondents polled said they were "almost certain" to subscribe to such a service. Time-Life later conducted a test in Allentown, Pennsylvania; in that survery, salesmen presented the pay cable channel concept to residents by offering them free service for the first month and a refundable installation fee; half of all residents interviewed for the second survey had expressed interest in purchasing the conceptual service with the incentives. During the planning stages, film distributors initially expressed reluctance to license their movies to Home Box Office unless they were provided a count of its potential audience reach and subscription pricing estimates to establish a similar licensing payment structure to what they used to exhibit films theatrically. Along with those statistics, cable operators also wanted to know what movies would be shown on HBO to avoid potential liability on advertisers and FCC indecency laws as the channel would air films without editing for objectionable content. HBO executives ultimately agreed to pay a flat licensing fee to the movie studios to acquire film rights, and allowed cable operators to the ability to market HBO directly to their customers.
In a later meeting of Dolan and the executive staff he hired to work on the project, they discussed changing the name of the new service. The team ultimately settled on calling it "Home Box Office", which was meant to convey to potential customers that the service would be their "ticket" to movies and events. The moniker was intended as a placeholder name in order to meet deadlines to publish research brochures about the new service; management intended to come up with a permanent name as development continued, however, the "Home Box Office" name would ultimately be kept around to serve that purpose.
A New York City Council provision restricting pay television franchises prevented HBO from being launched over the Sterling Manhattan system; Dolan then sought a city that had two competing cable systems to serve as its inaugural distributor. Originally, he settled on debuting Home Box Office on a Teleservice Cable (now Service Electric) system in Allentown. However, management found out that Allentown and surrounding areas fell within the 75-mile (121 km) blackout radius designated by the Philadelphia 76ers to protect ticket sales; since HBO agreed to carry NBA games, this rule would have resulted in any games involving the team not being shown in the area over the channel. Time-Life subsequently agreed to an offer by Teleservice president John Walson to launch the channel on its system in Wilkes-Barre (located in northeastern Pennsylvania, outside of the 76ers' DMA).
Home Box Office launched at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time on November 8, 1972. The first program and event telecast aired on the channel, an NHL hockey game between the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks from Madison Square Garden, was transmitted over channel 21--its original assigned channel on the system--that evening to 325 Teleservice Cable subscribers in Wilkes-Barre. (A plaque commemorating the launch event is located at Public Square in downtown Wilkes-Barre.) Home Box Office aired its first movie presentation immediately after the sports event: the 1971 film Sometimes a Great Notion, starring Paul Newman and Henry Fonda. For its first 1½ years of operation, HBO usually provided programming from 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time daily; depending on the evening, its programming schedule during this time consisted of either a double feature of theatrical movies, or a sporting event followed by a movie.
HBO's launch came with very little fanfare in the press; other than print advertisements in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader that promoted the launch, the channel's debut was not covered by any local or national media outlets. The city administrator of Wilkes-Barre declined an offer to attend the launch ceremony, while Time Inc. president and chief executive officer J. Richard Munro was unable to attend as he became stranded in traffic while trying to exit Manhattan by way of the George Washington Bridge as he was attempting to commute to Wilkes-Barre. Further complicating preparations for the inaugural telecast, in Midtown Manhattan, strong winds--produced by a storm system that brought areas of freezing rain over portions of the New York City area that evening--toppled a microwave reception dish atop the Pan Am Building being used to relay the Home Box Office signal to microwave relay towers linked to the Teleservice headends. (As HBO expanded throughout the Northeastern U.S., additional microwave towers were brought online to distribute HBO programming to cable systems that signed up to carry the service.) Time-Life representatives sent a technician to repair the antenna in time for the channel's launch.
Subscribers of the channel--and eventually, hotels receiving HBO that provided the guide in their guest rooms--received [The] HBO Guide (originally titled Home Box Office: Your Monthly Entertainment Guide until September 1975, and later known as HBO On Air until February 1977), a monthly digest size guide providing programming highlights, complete daily listings and, until "HBO Soundtrack" (originally Up Front) was discontinued with the May 1980 issue, an occasional column providing information HBO. The HBO Guide ceased as a conventional print publication in December 2011, although HBO continued to provide a similar, downloadable PDF program guide--which also included listings for Cinemax--on its website until December 2015.
Although its base had grown from what it had when HBO was being conceived, Sterling Manhattan Cable continued to lose money because the company had only a small subscriber base of 20,000 customers within Manhattan; HBO also faced financial issues, losing nearly $9,000 per month in part due to fees it paid to AT&T (averaging $11,000) to maintain its New York-based microwave link that was not made up for through the monthly fees it collected from subscribers. Initially, HBO received only a $3.50 cut from the $6.50 monthly fee paid by subscribers (equivalent to $39.73 in 2019 adjusted for inflation), the remainder of which went to Service Electric and other systems that signed on to carry the network. In February 1973, four months after the channel launched, in February 1973, Home Box Office aired its first non-sports entertainment special, the Pennsylvania Polka Festival, a three-hour-long music event broadcast from the Allentown Fairgrounds in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
In late 1972, Time-Life, Inc. gained majority control of Sterling Communications Inc.--consisting of Sterling Manhattan, the company's Long Island-based systems under the Sterling Nassau umbrella, and Home Box Office, Inc.--after its acquired a 60% equity interest in the company from Dolan, increasing Time-Life's stake in the company to 66.5%. Amid policy differences with Time-Life management, in March 1973, Dolan resigned from his executive duties at Sterling Manhattan and HBO, although he would remain a member of the board of directors at both units. Gerald Levin--an entertainment industry attorney previously with New York City-based law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, who had been with Home Box Office since it began operations as its director of finance, and later as its vice president and director of programming--replaced Dolan as the company's president and chief executive officer.
In May 1973, reportedly attributed to high start-up and operating costs, Time Inc. announced it would sell its 66.5% controlling interest in Sterling Communications to Warner Communications (formerly known as Kinney National Company; who was merged with Time in 1989 to form a new company) for $20 million. Under the terms, Time intended to convert the 260,000 convertible notes it held in Warner's cable television operations unit, American Television and Communications (ATC) (later known as Time Warner Cable, which merged into Charter Communications in May 2016), into common stock shares totaling up to 20% in interest; ownership of Home Box Office would also be transferred to Warner under Sterling's oversight. Time Inc. and Warner Communications terminated the deal on June 27, after failing to reach a definitive sale agreement.
On July 19, 1973, Time-Life reached an agreement to purchase and assume financial liabilities of Sterling Communications for $6.2 million. Time Inc. completed its acquisition of Sterling on September 18, 1973; the Sterling holding company was dissolved, with Home Box Office and the Sterling cable systems being transferred to its Time-Life division. (The "Sterling" name was subsequently removed from the Manhattan and Long Island systems, with the Manhattan unit being renamed "Manhattan Cable Television".) At the time of the acquisition, the service's future looked dim: HBO only had 8,000 subscribers across 14 cable systems at that time, all of them located in Pennsylvania, and it was suffering from a significant churn rate as subscribers who found the channel's program scheduling repetitive decided to cancel their service. HBO would eventually increase its fortunes within two years: by April 1975, the service had around 100,000 subscribers in Pennsylvania, New York state and Delaware, and had begun to turn a limited profit.
In 1974, HBO expanded its programming to an average of eight hours per day (from 6:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. ET) on weekdays and ten hours (from 3:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. ET) on weekends; depending on that day's programming lineup, the sign-on time and sign-off times sometimes varied (signing on as early as 5:30 p.m., and signing off as late as 2:00 a.m. ET). HBO eventually made its way into the New York metropolitan area in October 1974, when Manhattan Cable Television began offering the service to potential subscribers.
In the Fall of 1974, Time Inc. and Home Box Office, Inc. executives began conceptualizing ideas to expand HBO into a national pay television service. The time and expense that Time/HBO would incur by developing a vast infrastructure of microwave and coaxial telephone relay towers in all 50 states and U.S. territories would have been cost-prohibitive; for this reason, Time/HBO sought a more efficient method to distribute the channel's programming throughout the nation. Time settled on using a geostationary communications satellite to transmit HBO directly to cable providers in other parts of the United States that were outside of its existing microwave relay network. Other television broadcasters at the time were hesitant about uplinking their feeds to satellite because they feared that the satellites may inadvertently shut down or jettison out of their orbit, as well as reservations about the cost of purchasing downlink receiver dishes, which in 1974, were sold for as much as $75,000 (equivalent to $388815.79 in 2019 adjusted for inflation). Seeing satellite transmission as the only viable option to expand HBO's reach, Gerald Levin allocated $6.5 million in funding to lease transponder space on the Westar 1 satellite for a five-year term. The Time-Life board subsequently approved the satellite transmission plan.
On April 10, 1975, Levin unveiled plans to distribute the HBO signal via satellite, enabling the channel to extend distribution of its programming to cable systems and multipoint distribution services throughout the United States. Levin, through Time-Life, reached an agreement with UA-Columbia Cablevision to distribute the channel's satellite feed on the company's systems in California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Arkansas and Washington State, and build earth station receivers to intercept and relay the signal to their headends. With a more cost-effective and expiditious distribution method in place than would be capable through setting up land-based distribution systems across the entire country, Time Inc, started lining up carriage agreements with various cable systems--including such multiple system operators as American Television and Communications Corporation, Cox Cable and TelePrompTer Cable--to redistribute the satellite feed, and subsequently purchased earth-to-satellite transmitting stations to be set up outside of HBO's Manhattan headquarters and at various uplink headends throughout the country.
On September 30, 1975 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Home Box Office became the first television network to continuously deliver its signal via satellite (as opposed to microwave relay, the industry norm at the time) when it transmitted the "Thrilla in Manila," the heavyweight championship boxing match--held at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Philippines--that saw Muhammad Ali defeat Joe Frazier by technical knockout. The event was beamed to UA-Columbia's Fort Pierce and Vero Beach, Florida systems, and American Television and Communications's Jackson, Mississippi system, as well as cable systems that were already carrying HBO in the northeastern United States. Through the use of satellite, the channel began transmitting separate programming feeds for the Eastern and Pacific Time Zones, allowing the same programs that are first broadcast in the eastern half of the United States to air at accordant times in the western part of the country. HBO soon moved its domestic satellite transmissions from Westar 1 to Satcom 1 in February 1976. By 1977, the then Ted Turner-owned Atlanta superstation WTCG-TV (soon to become WTBS) and the then Pat Robertson-owned CBN Satellite Service (later to become the present-day Freeform) had joined it in adopting transmission via satellite, pioneering satellite delivery for the cable television industry. With this delivery method, by 1980, HBO was carried on cable providers in all 50 U.S. states and had a total of around 15 million subscribers. Programming gradually expanded over time, extending as late as 3:00 a.m. ET on weekends by January 1978. By 1979, HBO extended its programing day to between nine and eleven hours per day (usually from 3:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. ET/PT).
By April 1980, when the current version of its 1975 logo was first introduced, the full "Home Box Office" name had been de-emphasized in most on-air and other promotional parlance, in favor of identifying under the "HBO" initialism. (The full name is still used as the legal corporate name of its parent division under WarnerMedia, and is used on-air in daily copyright IDs; end-credit copyright tags; presenting credits shown at the start of its specials and original made-for-cable movies; and a proprietary vanity card shown at the close of the network's original programs.)
On June 5, 1981, HBO announced it would transition to a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week programming schedule at the start of 1982. Then-HBO President James Heyworth said the decision was effectively forced by rival Showtime's announcement of its pending switch to a 24-hour daily schedule effective July 4 (both announcements were made at that year's National Cable Television Association [NCTA] Convention), as well as the prior switches of The Movie Channel (on December 1, 1979) and Cinemax (on January 1, 1981) to 24-hour programming. (Along with the four larger pay services, Spotlight offered 24-hour programming from its expansion on September 1, 1981 until it ended operations on February 28, 1984.Home Theater Network, in contrast, maintained a 12-hour-a-day schedule from January 1, 1982--when its programming day expanded by approximately three hours--until it ended operations on January 31, 1987.) Phase one of the 24-hour switch commenced on September 4, 1981, when HBO began providing 57 consecutive hours of programming on weekends during the transition period (running from 6:00 p.m. ET/PT Friday until 3:00 a.m. ET/PT Sunday/early Monday). Three months later on December 28, 1981, it began offering 24-hour-a-day programming throughout the week (except for occasional interruptions for scheduled early-morning technical maintenance), adding full-time programming Monday through Friday between 3:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. ET/PT.
After having only produced a limited amount of unscripted programming since the debut of its first weekly series, Inside the NFL, in September 1977, 1983 saw HBO venture into original scripted programming. On January 3, 1983, the network premiered Not Necessarily the News, a news satire lampooning the week in politics that originally aired as a comedy special in September 1982. The series was cited as having laid the groundwork for satirical news programs that came in later years (such as The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and a later HBO series, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver), and featured Conan O'Brien and Greg Daniels, among other notable comics and comedy writers, among its writing staff over its eight-season run. On January 10, 1983, HBO premiered its first regularly scheduled children's program, Fraggle Rock. Created by Jim Henson (who produced the 1978 ACE Award-winning special Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas for HBO) and co-produced with Television South, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Henson Associates, the series (which ran for five seasons, ending in March 1987) centered on a group of various interconnected Muppet species. Later that year, on May 22, 1983, HBO premiered The Terry Fox Story, the first television movie ever produced for the network and the first to be produced for a pay television channel. The biographical film profiled the Canadian amputee runner (Eric Fryer) who embarked on a cross-country run across Canada to raise money and awareness for cancer research before Fox's deteriorating health from advanced cancer (from which he succumbed) ended the trek after 143 days.
Besides its venture into original programming that year, in early 1983, HBO jumped ahead of its competitors to become the first pay television service to broadcast Star Wars. As was common with film rights at the time in the pay-TV industry, 20th Century Fox sold off the premium television rights to the science fiction classic on a non-exclusive basis: HBO, Showtime, The Movie Channel, Home Theater Network and Spotlight were contractually bound to premiere it no earlier than 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time on February 1. However, HBO had managed to air the movie at midnight ET that same day, after paying Fox for permission to broadcast the film six hours ahead of the competition without promoting their coup to attract an audience other than night owls. The 1980s also saw HBO became involved in several lawsuits concerning conflicts with the unedited nature of the network's programming and municipal and state-level legal statutes (in such areas as Utah) that would have forced cable systems, if not the pay services themselves, to exclude inappropriate content in programs shown on HBO and other pay television networks.
On January 15, 1986, HBO and Cinemax began scrambling their signals using the Videocipher II encryption system, becoming the first satellite-delivered television networks to encrypt their signals from unauthorized viewing by approximately 1.5 million C-band satellite dish owners who did not subscribe to the services as well as to cable subscribers. The move initially resulted in widespread complaints from television receive-only (TVRO) satellite users that previously could view programming on HBO and Cinemax's transponder signals without a subscription, due to the expense of Videocipher II set-top descramblers required to unencrypt the signal (retailing up to $395, plus a monthly subscription for $12.95 each (or $19.95 for a package of both channels), equal to or slightly higher than the rates cable subscribers paid to receive HBO programming, and rental fees for the Videocipher receivers), while several satellite dish dealers throughout the U.S. closed their stores as the expansion of signal scrambling caused hefty declines in dish sales.
The objections by TVRO users--as well as by members of the Satellite Television Industry Association (SPACE), who, in March of that year, lobbied Congress to pass legislation to protect access to satellite transmissions--over having to now pay for HBO as cable subscribers had long done and paying for extra reception equipment came to a head four months later on April 26, when John R. MacDougall, an Ocala, Florida satellite dish retailer calling himself "Captain Midnight", staged his own protest of the changes by redirecting a receiver dish towards the network's Galaxy 1 transponder and intercepting the HBO signal during a late-night presentation of the 1985 spy drama film The Falcon and the Snowman. In this act of broadcast signal intrusion, the film's telecast was overridden with a text-based message written by MacDougall, placed over SMPTE color bars, in protest of the channel's decision to scramble its signal for home satellite subscribers and warning other premium services of possible backlash if they followed suit ("$12.95/MONTH ? NO WAY ! [SHOWTIME/MOVIE CHANNEL BEWARE!]"). The Federal Communications Commission subsequently charged MacDougall for "illegally operating a satellite uplink transmitter" in violation of the Communications Act of 1934, for which he pleaded guilty after deciding to cooperate with the FCC's investigation into the incident; under a plea bargain deal, MacDougall was fined $5,000, was put on unsupervised probation for one year, and had his amateur radio license suspended for one year.
As the 1980s wound down, HBO saw its subscriber base expand greatly as a byproduct of the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike; throughout the strike (which lasted from March 7 to August 7 of that year), HBO had an inventory of first-run programming whereas the broadcast networks were only able to air reruns of their shows because of the abrupt halt to their production schedules and the delayed start of the fall television season. Leaning into its growing prominence in pay television, in 1989, HBO unveiled the promotional campaign "Simply the Best"--which used the Tina Turner single "The Best" as its imaging theme in some on-air advertisements--basing its programming in comparison to rival Showtime.
On January 2, 1989, Selecciones en Español de HBO y Cinemax ("Spanish Selections from HBO and Cinemax"), a Spanish-language audio feed transmitted through, depending on the cable system affiliate, either an auxiliary second audio program channel (accessible through built-in and external multichannel audio decoders) or audio simulcasts via FM radio, launched. The service--which initially launched on 20 cable systems in markets with significant Hispanic and Latino populations, and aimed specifically at Spanish-dominant and first-language Spanish speakers-- originally provided Spanish-dubbed versions of recent feature film releases from HBO and Cinemax's movie suppliers. By that Spring, Selecciones's offerings expanded to include Spanish audio simulcasts of HBO's live boxing matches (except for certain events broadcast exclusively in Spanish on networks such as Galavisión). Selecciones en Español de HBO y Cinemax--replaced by two dedicated channel feeds, HBO en Español and Cinemax en Español, on September 27, 1993, effectively acting as part-time simulcast feeds with added first-run Spanish-language movies (mostly from Mexico, Argentina and Spain), and Spanish dubs of HBO's non-sports-event original programming--quickly gained interest from providers, expanding to an additional 35 cable systems in various U.S. markets in the weeks following its debut.
On March 4, 1989, Warner Communications--which, ironically, was part-owner of rival pay-cable service The Movie Channel from its launch in 1973 until joint venture group Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment sold its stake in the channel to majority partner Viacom in 1986--announced its intent to merge with HBO parent Time Inc. for $14.9 billion in cash and stock. Following two failed attempts by Paramount Communications to legally block the merger, as Paramount was seeking to acquire Time in a hostile takeover bid, the merger was completed on January 10, 1990, resulting in the consolidated entity creating Time Warner (now known as WarnerMedia), which as of 2020 , remains the parent company of the network.
On January 1, 1993, HBO and Cinemax--accompanied by Showtime and The Movie Channel--became the first television services in the world to transmit their signals using digital compression technology. The compressed satellite feeds, fed through Galaxy 1, were fixed at compression ratios intended to maintain "state-of-the-art" signal quality at provider headends. (The DigiCipher system, developed in 1992 by General Instrument to replace the Videocipher II system that was standard among satellite-delivered cable channels, was designed with an advanced encryption algorithm co-developed by AT&T that was structured to prevent the signal piracy issues that were apparent with the Videocipher II.) The adoption of the DigiCipher allowed Home Box Office, Inc. to transmit three HBO feeds and the primary Cinemax channel through the compression standard to participating systems that adopted the technology, and served as the benchmark for the launch of additional multiplex channels of both HBO and Cinemax utilizing compression--commencing with the December 1996 launch of HBO Family and concluding with the 2001 launches of four Cinemax channels: WMax (now MovieMax), @Max (now Cinemáx), OuterMax and 5StarMax.
During the 1990s, HBO began developing a reputation for high-quality and irreverent original programming; it was throughout this decade that the network experienced increasing success among audiences and acclaim from television critics for original series such as Tales from the Crypt (a horror anthology series based on the 1950s EC Comics series of the same name), Dream On (from eventual Friends creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane, and which utilized clips from black-and-white television series to illustrate the thoughts of divorced New York City book editor Martin Tupper [Brian Benben]), Tracey Takes On... (a topical sketch comedy show, in which comedienne Tracey Ullman, tackles a specific subject through sketches and monologues), Mr. Show with Bob and David (a sketch comedy series hosted by Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, featuring on-stage sketches and pre-taped pieces) and Arliss (a Robert Wuhl-led comedy about the exploits of a sports agent).
One of the scripted comedy programs that premiered early in the decade, Garry Shandling vehicle The Larry Sanders Show, arguably became HBO's flagship series of the 1990s; although it was not commercially as successful as programs airing on the Big Three networks (ABC, NBC and CBS) and Fox, the show--which followed the production of a fictional late night talk show--enjoyed a cult status and critical acclaim, and received multiple nominations and wins for many major television awards (including four CableACE Awards, three Primetime Emmy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards and two Peabody Awards). Along with influencing HBO's later scripted programming efforts, Larry Sanders--which ran for six seasons from August 1992 to May 1998--served as an influence for other show business-based satire series (such as 30 Rock, My Life on the D-List and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip), the use of celebrity guest stars portraying themselves, the absence of laugh tracks now synonymous with single-camera sitcoms and its use of embarrassment-structured comedy (as later popularized by The Office, Arrested Development and the HBO original comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm). The series ranked #38 on TV Guides list of the "50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time" in 2002 (becoming the only HBO comedy series to make the list) and was also included in Times list of the "100 Best TV Shows of All Time" in 2007.The Larry Sanders Show was also ranked by various critics and fans as one of the best TV comedies of the 1990s.
The original programs that HBO has developed since the early 1990s have earned the channel numerous Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominations and wins. HBO has been nominated in at least one category at the Emmys and Golden Globes since 1988 (when the network earned its first Emmy nomination for Danny Glover's performance as Nelson Mandela in the 1987 original movie Mandela), and set a record for the most Primetime Emmy nominations for a television network in a single year (137) in 2019. Two reasons for what is perceived as the higher quality of these shows are the quality of the writing on the programs and the fact that as a subscription-only service, HBO does not carry "normal" commercials; instead the network runs promotions for upcoming HBO programs and behind-the-scenes featurettes between programs. This relieves HBO from some pressures to tone down controversial aspects of its programs, and allows for more explicit content to be incorporated into its shows that would not be allowed to air on broadcast television or basic cable, such as profanity, strong/graphic violence, nudity and graphic sex scenes.
In July 1997, HBO premiered its first one-hour dramatic narrative series Oz, centering on the inmates of the Oswald State Correctional Facility, a fictional level 4 maximum-security state prison. The program helped start the trend of narrative dramas incorporating gritty realism and storytelling that became standard among premium cable services to the present day. While Oz was critically acclaimed throughout its six-season run, it was not until The Sopranos premiered in January 1999, that the network achieved widespread critical success with an hour-long drama series. The Sopranos--centering on mob patriarch Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and his family--received 111 Emmy nominations and 21 wins over the course of its six-season run, including two honors for Outstanding Drama Series. The mob drama's first wins for Outstanding Drama and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (for Drea de Matteo) in 2004, two of the four Emmys it won that year, marked the first time that a cable program won in either category over a program on one of the major broadcast networks.
1998 saw the debut of From the Earth to the Moon, a 12-part miniseries that was produced by Tom Hanks, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer and based on the Andrew Chaikin book A Man on the Moon. Costing $68 million to produce, it traced the U.S. space program from the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union through the final moon landing, Apollo 17. From the Earth to the Moon--which won three Emmy Awards, including for Outstanding Miniseries, and a Golden Globe for Best Miniseries or Television Film--helped lay the groundwork for other high-profile historical films and miniseries produced by the network in subsequent years including 61* (a Billy Crystal-directed 2001 biopic chronicling New York Yankees legends Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle's New York Yankees race to break Babe Ruth's 1927 single-season record of 60 home runs), Band of Brothers (a ten-part 2001 miniseries produced by Hanks and Steven Spielberg, about the E Company soldiers of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment during the European Theater combat of the Pacific War), John Adams and The Pacific (a ten-part 2010 companion miniseries to Band of Brothers from Spielberg and Hanks, based on the 1992 Stephen E. Ambrose book focusing on the United States Marine Corps's Pacific Theater battles during the Pacific War).
In June 1998, Sex and the City, based on the book series of the same name by Candace Bushnell, made its debut on the network. Over the course of its six-season run, the comedy series--centering on the friendship and romances of four New York City women--received 54 Emmy nominations and won seven, including one win for Outstanding Comedy Series, and in 2004, the first wins for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (for Sarah Jessica Parker) and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (for Cynthia Nixon) for HBO since the network first gained Emmy eligibility.
The 2000s opened with two series that, although they did not surpass The Sopranos in viewership success, maintained similar or matched its critical acclaim, further cementing HBO's reputation as a leading producer of quality television programming. Six Feet Under, premiering in August 2001, was an ensemble drama centering on the lives of a family managing a Los Angeles funeral home. Winning, among others, nine Emmys, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, three Golden Globe Awards and a Peabody Award, it has since been regarded as one of television's best all-time series, making such lists ranked by Time,The Guardian, and Empire.The Wire, premiering in June 2002 and created by author and former police reporter David Simon, was an anthology-style crime drama focusing on different Baltimore institutions and their relationship to law enforcement in each season, tying subsequent storylines through existing characters and prior storylines. While it never won any major television awards, it earned wide critical acclaim for its writing and depictions of criminal and law enforcement issues, also becoming regarded as one of the best series of all time by media organizations such as TV Guide,Entertainment Weekly,Rolling Stone, and the BBC.
The 2003 miniseries Angels in America (based on the Pulitzer-winning play by Tony Kushner, centering around the intersecting lives of six people in 1985 New York), became the first (and to date, only) program to sweep all seven major categories at the Primetime Emmys in the ceremony's history as well as the second program (after Caesar's Hour in 1957) to win all four main acting categories during the 2004 ceremony. HBO experienced additional viewer success with the 2008 debut of True Blood, a vampire-themed fantasy horror drama based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries gothic novel series by Charlaine Harris. While earning few major television awards throughout its run, True Bloods average viewership often rivaled that of The Sopranos, peaking at an average of 12.4 million per week (counting repeat and on-demand viewership) during its second season.
The network saw three more hit series premiere in the 2010s: Game of Thrones--based on George R. R. Martin's fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire--which earned both critical and viewer praise, and set a single-year record for Emmy wins by an individual program in 2015 with 12 awards;Girls, a comedy series created by series star Lena Dunham; and True Detective, an anthology-style series--structured to feature a different cast and setting within each season's storyline--which initially saw established film actors Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey in its lead roles.
On August 13, 2015, HBO announced its re-entry into children's programming, when it reached a five-year programming and development deal with Sesame Workshop. Through the agreement, HBO obtained first-run television rights to Sesame Street, beginning with the January 2016 debut of its 46th season (with episodes being distributed to the program's longtime broadcaster, PBS, following a nine-month exclusivity window at no charge to its member stations); Sesame Workshop will also produce original children's programming content for the channel, which also gained exclusive streaming rights to the company's programming library for HBO Go and HBO Now (assuming those rights from Amazon Video, Netflix and Sesame Workshop's in-house subscription streaming service, Sesame Go, the latter of which will cease to operate as a standalone offering). Although struck with the intent to having the show remain on PBS in some fashion, the nonprofit production company reached the deal due to cutbacks resulting from declines in public and private donations, distribution fees paid by PBS member stations and licensing for merchandise sales. With the debut of HBO Max in May 2020, all Sesame Workshop content will shift from the linear HBO service to the OTT platform upon Max's launch.
On October 22, 2016, AT&T announced an offer to acquire Time Warner for $108.7 billion, including debt it would assume from the latter; the merger would bring Time Warner's various media properties, including HBO and Cinemax, under the same corporate umbrella as AT&T's telecommunications holdings, including satellite provider DirecTV and IPTV/broadband provider AT&T U-verse. Time Warner shareholders approved the merger on February 15, 2017.
On November 20, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against AT&T and Time Warner in an attempt to block the merger, citing antitrust concerns surrounding the transaction. U.S. clearance of the proposed merger--which had already received approval from European, Mexican, Chilean and Brazilian regulatory authorities--was affirmed by court ruling on June 12, 2018, after District of Columbia U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon ruled in favor of AT&T, and dismissed antitrust claims asserted in the DOJ's lawsuit. The merger closed two days later on June 14, 2018, with Time Warner becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T, which renamed the unit WarnerMedia; the Home Box Office, Inc. unit and its assets were assigned to the newly formed WarnerMedia Entertainment division, although it continues to operate as an autonomous subsidiary. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington unanimously upheld the lower court's ruling in favor of AT&T on February 26, 2019.
In July 2018, The New York Times obtained audio from a corporate town hall meeting featuring AT&T executive John Stankey--CEO of WarnerMedia from the merger's completion until May 2020, when Stankey shifted to chief operating officer during his transition to replacing Randall Stephenson as AT&T's CEO--who argued that HBO's current content model was not profitable enough, and that the network had to produce more content (similar to that offered by streaming services such as Netflix) in order to achieve more engagement with subscribers (including short-form content oriented towards mobile devices), and that HBO needed to "move beyond 35 to 40 percent penetration to have this become a much more common product." Stankey's statement contradicted the fact that HBO had been consistently profitable over the last three years, totaling nearly $6 billion, while allocating more than $2 billion per year for programming.
Building on this concept, on October 10, 2018, Stankey stated that the company was developing a new over-the-top (OTT) streaming service that would feature content from various WarnerMedia properties including HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. WarnerMedia would later announce on July 9, 2019, that the service would be co-branded with HBO, under the name HBO Max. The service--which was developed under a separate infrastructure from HBO's existing streaming platforms, HBO Go and HBO Now, and will not immediately replace those services--launched on May 27, 2020.
On November 1, 2018, HBO and Cinemax were pulled from Dish Network and Sling TV in a carriage dispute with Dish Network Corporation over distribution fees, marking the first time the network had ever been removed from a pay television provider in its then 46-year history. (The dispute did not affect Dish/Sling's carriage of WarnerMedia's other cable networks, which were distributed to the satellite and virtual MVPD providers under a separate carriage agreement. As of 2020 , Dish Network and WarnerMedia have not resumed negotiations to restore HBO and Cinemax on the former's pay television services.)
On February 28, 2019, Richard Plepler stepped down from his position as CEO of Home Box Office, Inc., after a collective 27-year tenure at HBO and twelve years as head of the network and its parent unit. The New York Times reported that Plepler "found he had less autonomy after the merger." On March 4 of that year, AT&T announced a major reorganization of WarnerMedia's assets, dividing WarnerMedia's television properties among three corporate divisions. Home Box Office, Inc. (encompassing HBO, Cinemax, and their respective wholly owned international channels and streaming services) was reassigned to WarnerMedia Entertainment, placing it under the same umbrella as sister basic cable networks TBS, TNT and TruTV (which were formerly part of the dissolved Turner Broadcasting System subsidiary), and under the leadership of former NBC and Showtime executive Bob Greenblatt. (Other former Turner assets were split between two other new subsidiaries: WarnerMedia News & Sports, which oversees CNN and its sister networks, Turner Sports and management operations for NBA TV, and WarnerMedia Global Kids, Young Adults and Classics, a unit of Warner Bros. that oversees such networks as Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies.)
In an effort to reduce subscriber churn by offering extra programming choices to subscribers, on August 1, 1991, HBO and Cinemax became the first subscription television services to launch "multiplexed" companion channels, each available at no extra charge to subscribers of one or both networks. Through a test launch of the three channels over those systems, TeleCable customers in Overland Park, Kansas, Racine, Wisconsin and suburban Dallas (Richardson and Plano, Texas) that subscribed to either service began receiving two additional HBO channels and/or a secondary channel of Cinemax. HBO2, HBO3 and Cinemax 2 (now MoreMax) each offered distinct schedules of programs culled from HBO and Cinemax's movie and original programming libraries separate from offerings shown concurrently on their respective parent primary channels. (Cinemax was originally scheduled to launch an tertiary channel, Cinemax 3, on November 1, 1991, but these plans were shelved until 1996.)
At the time the multiplex test was announced, HBO's then-executive vice president of marketing, John K. Billock, cited internal research that indicated HBO and Cinemax subscribers were prone to cancelling their subscriptions because they either believed that neither tended to have "anything on worth watching" or, when presented with a full monthly schedule, felt that programs they wanted to watch did not air at preferable times. A November 1991 ACNielsen survey of 550 TeleCable subscribers in the three launch markets determined that HBO and Cinemax's multiplex offerings created positive impacts on subscriber usage and attitudes that factored into whether a subscriber elected to cancel their HBO and/or Cinemax service, with declines in negative opinions on pricing (from 30% to 22%) and the perception of too many repeat program showings each month (from 52% to 35%), and increases in overall usage (rising by 11%) and favorability ratings among home media (from 30% to 50%).
In February 1996, in anticipation of the adoption of MPEG-2 digital compression codecs that would allow cable providers to offer digital cable service, Home Box Office, Inc. announced plans to expand its multiplex services across HBO and Cinemax to twelve channels, encompassing a fourth HBO channel and two additional Cinemax channels, originally projected for a Spring 1997 launch. The HBO multiplex expanded on December 1, 1996, with the launch of a fourth channel, HBO Family, focusing on family-oriented feature films and television series aimed at younger children. (HBO Family's launch coincided with the launch of Mountain Time Zone feeds of HBO, HBO2, Cinemax and Cinemax 2, which were the first subfeeds ever offered by a subscription television service to specifically serve that time zone.)
In April 1998, Home Box Office, Inc. adopted the umbrella brand "HBO The Works" for the four HBO multiplex channels, while the now-four-channel Cinemax package concurrently started to be marketed under the "MultiMax" banner. Concurrent with the rebranding of the HBO multichannel package, two of the channels saw format changes: HBO2 was rebranded as HBO Plus, and HBO3 was relaunched as HBO Signature--incorporating content catering toward a female audience, alongside theatrical films aimed at broader audiences and content from HBO's original made-for-cable movie and documentary libraries. (HBO Plus would revert to the "HBO2" moniker in September 2002. The "HBO Plus" brand remains in use by HBO Latin America--which serves Mexico and portions of Central and South America--on a multiplex channel mainly focused around theatrical movies previously aired on its parent feed; HBO Latin America also operates a separate channel sharing the "HBO2" name with the shared U.S. namesake of both services.)
On May 6, 1999, the HBO multiplex expanded to include two new thematic channels: HBO Comedy--featuring comedic feature films, comedy series from HBO's original programming library, and recent and archived HBO comedy specials--and HBO Zone--aimed at young adults between the ages of 18 and 34, offering theatrical movies; comedy and alternative series, and documentaries from HBO's original programming library; and music videos. Rounding out the HBO multiplex expansion was HBO Latino, a Spanish language network launched on November 1, 2000, featuring a mix of dubbed simulcasts of programming from the primary HBO channel as well as exclusive Spanish-originated programs.
The multiplex tier continued to be marketed as "HBO The Works" until December 2004; as of 2020 HBO Family (beginning in 1998) and HBO Latino (beginning in 2000) were the only HBO multiplex channels that maintained dedicated websites independent of--although managed in conjunction with--the main HBO website, to which the other five multiplex channels had their promotion limited; both channels had their online content merged into HBO.com in February 2010., the HBO linear channel suite does not have an "official" marketed name, although HBO and Cinemax's respective multiplex packages have been marketed collectively afterward (and beforehand) as the "HBO/MAX Pak".
Depending on the service provider, HBO provides up to seven 24-hour multiplex channels--all of which are simulcast in both standard definition and high definition, and available as time zone-based regional feeds--as well as a subscription video-on-demand service (HBO on Demand). Off-the-air maintenance periods of anywhere from a half-hour up to two hours occur at varied overnight/early morning time slots (usually preceding the 6:00 a.m. ET/PT start of the defined broadcast day) once per month on each channel.
HBO transmits feeds of its primary and multiplex channels on both Eastern and Pacific Time Zone schedules. The respective coastal feeds of each channel are usually packaged together, resulting in the difference in local airtimes for a particular movie or program between two geographic locations being three hours at most. (Most cable, satellite and IPTV providers as well as its Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video OTT channels only offer the East and West Coast feeds of the main HBO channel; some conventional television providers may include coastal feeds of HBO2 in certain areas, while wider availability of coastal feeds for the other multiplex channels is limited to subscribers of DirecTV, YouTube TV and the Hulu live TV service.)
The premium film service Cinemax, which is also owned by WarnerMedia through Home Box Office, Inc., operates as a separate television network from HBO; although television providers very frequently sell HBO and Cinemax together in a singular package, customers have the option of subscribing to either service's channel package individually.
|Channel||Description and programming|
|The flagship channel; HBO airs popular and first-run feature films, original series and made-for-cable movies, sports-focused magazine and documentary series, comedy and occasional concert specials, and documentaries. The channel also airs weekly premieres of recent theatrical or new HBO original movies--with feature films debuting on HBO within a lag of between eight months to one year on average from their initial theatrical release--on Saturday nights (usually around 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time; the Pacific Time Zone broadcast of the premiered film may air later in the evening in the event that a live special is scheduled to air that particular Saturday, with the special being shown after the movie on the Eastern Time Zone feed). The main HBO channel mainly airs R-rated films mainly after 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific (sometimes as early as 5:00 p.m. ET/PT), although it does air certain TV-MA rated programs during the daytime hours.|
|HBO's secondary channel; HBO2 offers a separate schedule of theatrical and original made-for-cable movies (including daytime airings of R-rated films that the main HBO channel is usually restricted from airing in the morning, early- and mid-afternoon hours), series and specials, as well as same-week rebroadcasts of newer films, and recent episodes of HBO original series originally aired on the primary channel. Launched on August 1, 1991, HBO2 originally used a channel-specific version of the main HBO channel's then-current on-air look; by 1993, this was replaced with a spartan "program grid" layout during promotional breaks, similar to the visual appearance then used by the Prevue Channel (and subsequently applied by HBO 3, Cinemax 2 [now MoreMax] and Cinemax 3 [now ActionMax]). The channel was rebranded as HBO Plus on October 1, 1998, concurrently adopting a distinct on-air look from the primary channel. Since the reversion to the "HBO2" brand in September 2002, the channel has used minor variations of the main HBO channel's on-air identity.|
|Launched on May 6, 1999, HBO Comedy features comedic films, as well as rebroadcasts of HBO's original comedy series and stand-up specials; although the channel broadcasts R-rated films during the daytime hours, HBO Comedy only airs adult comedy specials at night.|
|Launched on December 1, 1996, HBO Family features movies and series aimed at children, as well as feature films intended for a broader family audience. A block of preschooler-targeted series, "HBO Kids" (formerly known as "Jam" from August 2001 to January 2016), is also offered daily from 6:00 to 11:00 a.m. and weekday afternoons from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time; movies and family-oriented original specials occupy the remainder of the channel's daily schedule. Movie presentations on HBO Family are restricted to encompass films rated G, PG or PG-13 (or the equivalent TV-G, TV-PG or TV-14), and as such, it is the only HBO channel that does not air R, NC-17 or TV-MA rated program content. Originally intended as a secondary service for HBO's family-oriented programming, HBO Family assumed exclusivity over the children's programs (which formerly aired in a daily morning block on the main channel) and family-oriented specials (previously shown on HBO in late afternoon or early evening timeslots) when HBO stopped running these programs on its primary channel in 2001. With the exception of an hour-long block at 9:00 a.m. Eastern/Pacific (currently consisting of a double-run of Sesame Street) and an unbranded block of one to two movies appropriate for family viewing on Saturdays (before and after the aforementioned children's series), HBO currently offers very little children's programming on its main channel.
Despite being a premium service, HBO Family has occasionally been offered on the basic tiers of select cable providers to temporarily replace local television stations removed as a consequence of carriage disputes; such instances include during Hearst Television's 2012 dispute with Time Warner Cable that resulted in TWC's associated Bright House Networks system in Tampa, Florida, substituting independent station WMOR-TV with HBO Family, and a dispute between Cox Communications and LIN TV in which the channel was used as a placeholder for Fox affiliate WVBT on Cox's Hampton Roads, Virginia system from January to February 2000.
|Launched on November 1, 2000 (although originally slated to debut on September 18 of that year), HBO Latino offers programming catering to Hispanic and Latino American audiences, including HBO original productions, Spanish and Portuguese series sourced from HBO Latin America, dubbed versions of American theatrical releases, and domestic and imported Spanish-language films. Outside of breakaways for exclusive original and acquired programs, and separate promotional advertising between programs, HBO Latino largely acts as a de facto Spanish language simulcast of the primary HBO channel. (All other HBO multiplex channels provide alternate Spanish audio tracks of most of their programming via second audio program feeds.) HBO Latino is the indirect successor to HBO en Español (originally named Selecciones en Español de HBO y Cinemax), which launched in 1989.|
|HBO Signature features high quality films, HBO original series and specials. Launched on August 1, 1991, the channel was originally known as "HBO 3" until September 30, 1998, maintaining a genericized format similar to HBO and HBO2; it rebranded as HBO Signature the following day (October 1), when its programming shifted focus around movies, series and specials targeted at a female audience.|
|Launched on May 6, 1999, HBO Zone airs movies and HBO original programs aimed at young adults between the ages of 18 and 34. Until Home Box Office, Inc. removed sister network Cinemax's Max After Dark adult programming block and all associated programming from its other television and streaming platforms in 2018, HBO Zone also carried softcore pornographic films acquired for the Cinemax block in late-night, dependent on their inclusion on each day's program schedule; as such, it is the only HBO channel that has aired adult-oriented pornographic movies on its regular schedule.|
Cinemax is an American pay television network owned by the Home Box Office, Inc. subsidiary of WarnerMedia Entertainment. Originally developed as a companion service to HBO, the channel's programming consists of recent and some older theatrically released feature films, original action drama series, documentaries and special behind-the-scenes featurettes.
On August 1, 1980, HBO launched Cinemax, a companion movie-based premium channel created as a direct competitor to The Movie Channel, then a smaller, standalone pay movie service owned by Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment (then part-owned by WarnerMedia predecessor Warner Communications). Cinemax succeeded in its early years partly because of its reliance on classic movie releases from the 1950s to the 1970s--with some more recent films mixed into its schedule--that it presented uncut and without commercial interruption, at a time when limited headend channel capacity resulted in cable subscribers only being able to receive as many as three dozen channels (up to half of which were reserved for local and out-of-market broadcast stations, and public access channels). In most cases, cable operators tended to sell Cinemax and HBO as a singular premium bundle, usually offered at a discount for customers that decided to subscribe to both channels. Cinemax, unlike HBO, also maintained a 24-hour schedule from its launch, one of the first pay cable services to transmit around-the-clock.
Even early in its existence, Cinemax efforted to diversify its programming beyond movies. Beginning in 1984, it incorporated music specials and some limited original programming (among them, SCTV Channel and Max Headroom) into the channel's schedule. Around this time, Cinemax also began airing adult-oriented softcore pornographic films and series--containing strong sexual content and nudity--in varying late night timeslots (usually no earlier than 11:30 p.m. Eastern and Pacific); this programming block, originally airing under the "Friday After Dark" banner (renamed "Max After Dark" in 2008 to better reflect its prior expansion to a nightly block), would become strongly associated with the channel among its subscribers and in pop culture. The channel began gradually scaling back its adult programming offerings in 2011, in an effort to shift focus towards its mainstream films and original programs, culminating in the removal of "Max After Dark" content from its linear and on-demand platforms in 2018, as part of a broader exit from the genre across Home Box Office, Inc.'s platforms. In terms of mainstream programming, Cinemax began premiering original action series in the early 2010s, beginning with the August 2011 debut of Strike Back (which has since become the channel's longest-running original program). Cinemax plans to eliminate scripted programming altogether after its current slate of action series ends in 2020 or early 2021 as WarnerMedia reallocates its programming resources toward the HBO Max streaming service, shifting the channel back to its original structure as a movie-exclusive premium service.
The linear Cinemax multiplex service, as of 2020 MovieMax (originally launched as the female-targeted WMax in 2001); Cinemáx (a Spanish language simulcast feed, which originally launched as the young adult-focused @Max in 2001) and 5StarMax (launched in 2001)., consists of the primary feed and six thematic channels: MoreMax (launched in April 1991 as Cinemax 2, in conjunction with HBO2's rollout); ActionMax (originally launched as Cinemax 3 in 1995); ThrillerMax (launched in 1998);
|Launched||April 1, 1979|
|Closed||May 31, 1980|
|Owned by||Home Box Office, Inc.|
(in select markets)
|Headquarters||New York City, New York|
Take 2 is a defunct American premium cable television network that was owned by Home Box Office, Inc., then a subsidiary of the Time-Life division of Time Inc., which operated from April 1979 to May 1980. Marketed at a family audience, the channel's programming consisted of recent and older theatrically released motion pictures. Take 2 was the first of three efforts by HBO to maintain a family-oriented pay service, predating the similarly formatted and short-lived mini-pay service Festival (launched in 1986) and the present-day multiplex channel HBO Family (launched in 1996),
In April 1979, HBO launched Take 2, the channel's first attempt at a companion premium service. Developed at the request of HBO's affiliate cable providers to meet consumer demand for an additional pay television offering, Take 2 was designed as a lower-priced mini-pay service aimed at family audiences, and devoid of R-rated theatrical films. The format was intended to cater to prospective customers who were reluctant to pay for an HBO subscription because of its cost and the potentially objectionable content in some of its programming.
Slow subscriber growth and difficulties leveraging wide cable carriage forced the shutdown of Take 2 on May 31, 1980. After analyzing the mistakes that caused the failure of Take 2, HBO developed a secondary, lower-cost "maxi-pay" service, Cinemax, which, following its August 1980 launch, experienced success with its mix of recent and older movies.
Festival is a defunct American premium cable television network that was owned by Home Box Office, Inc., then a subsidiary of Time Inc., which operated from 1986 to 1988. The channel's programming consisted of uncut and re-edited versions of recent older theatrically released motion pictures, along original music, comedy and nature specials sourced from the parent HBO channel aimed at a family audience.
On April 1, 1986, HBO began test-marketing Festival on six cable systems owned by then-sister company American Television and Communications Corporation. It was aimed at older audiences who objected to programming containing violence and sexual situations on other premium services, television viewers that did not already have cable service, and basic cable subscribers with no existing subscription to a premium service, focusing classic and recent hit movies, documentaries, and HBO's original stand-up comedy, concert, nature and ice skating specials. Notably for a premium service, Festival aired re-edited R-rated movies intended to fit a PG rating. Festival ceased operations on December 31, 1988; Home Box Office, Inc. cited the inability to expand distribution because of channel capacity limitations at most cable company headends for the closure of the channel. At the time of its shutdown, Festival had an estimated 30,000 subscribers, far below HBO's reach of 15.9 million subscribers and a distant last place in subscriber count among the eight American premium cable services in operation at the time.
HBO HD (originally called HBO HDTV from March 1999 until April 2006) is a high definition simulcast feed of HBO that broadcasts in the 1080i resolution format. HBO maintains high definition simulcast feeds of its main channel and all six multiplex channels. HBO HD is available on all major cable television providers including, among others, Charter Communications (including systems once owned by former HBO sister company Time Warner Cable); Comcast Xfinity (which, in 2016, began downconverting HBO, Cinemax and other cable channels transmitting in 1080i to 720p60); Cox Communications and Optimum; as well as DirecTV; AT&T U-verse; and Verizon FiOS. From the 2008 rollout of HD simulcasts for the HBO multiplex feeds until the mid-2010s, the majority of pay television providers that carried HBO HD generally offered only the main channel in high definition, with HD carriage of the multiplex channels varying by market. As of 2020 , most providers transmit all seven HBO multiplex channels in HD, either on a dedicated HD channel tier separate from their SD assignments or as hybrid SD/HD feeds.
Home Box Office, Inc. announced plans to launch a high definition simulcast feed on June 12, 1997, with initial plans for a rollout to television providers as early as the Summer of 1998, when electronics manufacturers planned to begin retailing their initial line of HD-capable television sets. HBO began transmitting a high definition simulcast feed on March 6, 1999, becoming the first American cable television network to begin simulcast their programming in the format. For the first 23 months of its existence, the HD feed only transmitted theatrical films from the network's programming suppliers (initially accounting for about 45% of its available feature film output, expanding to around 60% by early 2001) and HBO's in-house original movies in the format, as existing widescreen prints of those films were already scalable in the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio and could readily be upconverted to HD resolution.
Original programming began to be made available in HD on January 14, 2001, when the network commenced a 13-week Sunday "encore" presentation of the second season of The Sopranos in remastered 1080i HD. (HBO had been requiring the producers of its original series to film their episodes in widescreen--subsequently downconverted for the standard definition feed--to fit 4:3 television screens since 1996, in order to future-proof them for remastering in HD.) The third-season premiere of the mob drama, "Mr. Ruggerio's Neighborhood," on March 4 was the first first-run episode of an HBO series to be transmitted in high-definition from its initial telecast, with all subsequent episodes being delivered to HBO exclusively on HD videotape (and downcoverted for the main standard-definition feed). Bob Zitter, then the network's Senior Vice President of Technology Operations, disclosed to Multichannel News in January 2001 that HBO elected to delay offering its original series in high definition until there was both sustainable consumer penetration of high-definition television sets and wide accessibility of HDTV equipment on the retail market. Sports telecasts were upgraded to HD on September 25, 2004, with an HBO World Championship Boxing fight card headlined by Roy Jones Jr. and Glen Johnson. The network began transmitting its six multiplex channels in high definition on September 1, 2008, when DirecTV began offering HD simulcast feeds of HBO2, HBO Family, HBO Signature and HBO Latino.
HBO On Demand is HBO's companion subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service that is available at no additional cost to subscribers of the linear television service, who regularly pay a premium fee to pay television providers to receive access to the channel. VOD content from the network is also available on select virtual MVPD services (including sister properties AT&T TV, AT&T TV Now and AT&T WatchTV, and Hulu) and through HBO's dedicated OTT video channels on Apple TV Channels, Amazon Video Channels, and The Roku Channel. HBO on Demand offers theatrical feature films from HBO's distribution partners and original programming previously seen on the network (including weekly series, documentaries, sports magazine and documentary programs, and concert and stand-up comedy specials). The service's rotating program selection incorporates newer film titles and episodes that are added to the platform following their debut on the linear feed, as well as library content (including complete seasons of the network's past and present original programs).
HBO on Demand, the first SVOD service to be offered by an American premium service, launched on July 1, 2001 over then sister company Time Warner Cable's Columbia, South Carolina, system. The service was developed to allow HBO subscribers access to the channel's programming at their choosing, thereby reducing the frequency in which viewers were unable to find a program they prefer to watch and limiting cancellations to the service because of that issue. On January 3, 2011, HBO became the first pay television network to offer VOD content in 3D; initially available to linear HBO subscribers signed with Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Verizon FiOS, 3D content consisted of theatrical feature films available in the format.
In the United Kingdom, a domestic version of HBO on Demand was launched in 2015 to subscribers of IPTV provider TalkTalk TV, which provide HBO's program offerings through the provider's YouView set-top boxes via a standalone VOD subscription.
HBO Go is the network's on-demand streaming service for broadband subscribers of the linear HBO television service. It is accessible through play.hbogo.com, and through apps for Apple iOS and Apple TV devices;Android devices and Android TV;Amazon Fire TV;Chromecast;PlayStation consoles (PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4);Xbox One consoles;Roku devices; and most Samsung Smart TV models. Content available on HBO Go includes theatrically released films (sourced from the network's pay television contractual windows for recent studio releases and from library content agreements with film distributors) and HBO original programming (including scripted series, made-for-cable movies, comedy specials, documentaries, and sports documentary and magazine programs). HBO Go, along with companion service HBO Now and the upcoming HBO Max, does not provide live simulcasts of the seven linear HBO channels. (HBO and Cinemax are the only American premium television services not to include live network feeds in their proprietary streaming VOD platforms.)
Based on the prototype HBO on Broadband service that was originally launched in January 2008 to linear HBO subscribers of Time Warner Cable's Green Bay and Milwaukee, Wisconsin systems, HBO Go launched nationwide on February 18, 2010, initially available to existing HBO subscribers signed with Verizon FiOS. Initially carrying 1,000 hours of program content available for streaming in standard or high definition, the on-demand streaming service was conceived as a TV Everywhere platform marketed exclusively to existing subscribers of the linear HBO television service. (The HBO Go website and mobile apps, including its apps for streaming devices such as Roku and Apple TV, and some video game consoles, require a password accompanying a linear HBO subscription by a participating television provider in order to access content on the service.) On June 12, 2020, WarnerMedia announced that HBO Go would be discontinued in the U.S. on July 31, as most traditional and virtual MVPDs have secured distribution deals for HBO Max.
HBO Now is an over-the-top (OTT) subscription streaming service that provides on-demand access to HBO's library of original programming and theatrical films, and is marketed independent of a pay television subscription to the linear HBO service as a standalone platform targeting cord cutters. HBO Now is available online and through apps for Apple iOS and Apple TV devices; Android tablets, phones and Android TV devices; Amazon Fire TV; Xbox consoles (Xbox 360 and Xbox One); and PlayStation consoles (PlayStation 3 and later); and as a premium add-on through Sling TV, Amazon Prime Video, AT&T TV and Hulu.
On October 15, 2014, HBO announced plans to launch an OTT subscription streaming service in 2015, which would be distributed as a standalone offering that does not require an existing television subscription in order to access content. The service, HBO Now, was unveiled on March 9, 2015, and officially launched one month later on April 7. The service was initially available via Apple Inc. to Apple TV and iOS devices for a three-month exclusivity period following its formal launch, before becoming available for subscription through other participating Internet service providers. Available for $15 per month, HBO Now is identical to HBO Go in terms of content and features. New episodes of HBO series are made available for streaming on the initial airdate, and usually uploaded at their normal airtime, of their original broadcast on the main linear HBO channel. By February 2019, subscribership of HBO Now subscribers had reached over 8 million customers. On June 12, 2020, WarnerMedia announced that HBO Now would be rebranded solely as HBO on July 31; since HBO Max's launch, HBO Now currently serves as a default HBO streaming service for Roku and Amazon Fire TV customers, as WarnerMedia has not yet signed deals to distribute HBO Max on either platform.
HBO Max is an over-the-top subscription streaming service operated by the WarnerMedia Direct, LLC subsidiary of WarnerMedia Entertainment. Built around HBO's programming, the service also offers supplementary original programming and library content from Warner Bros. Studios, WarnerMedia Entertainment television properties and third-party content providers. The service is available online, through participating broadband providers (including existing HBO subscribers of AT&T-owned platforms AT&T TV, DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and AT&T Mobility and subscribers of HBO Go and HBO Now, who, by way of their shared AT&T ownership, were allowed access to HBO Max at launch for no additional charge), and through apps for Android tablets, phones and Android TV devices, Apple iOS and Apple TV devices, Roku devices and Hulu.
On October 10, 2018, WarnerMedia announced that it would launch an over-the-top streaming service in late 2019, featuring content from the company's various entertainment brands. In mid-May 2019, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson indicated that the planned service would utilize the HBO brand, and would also tie into HBO's existing relationships with cable operators as subscribers of the linear HBO television service would have access to the then-unnamed platform as would broadband providers who could purchase the service through third-party sellers. At the time, a beta rollout was expected in the fourth quarter of 2019 and a full launch was projected in the first quarter of 2020.
On July 9, 2019, WarnerMedia announced the streaming service would be named HBO Max. ("Max" has been a trademark and on-air shorthand for Cinemax since its 1980 launch, resulting in some confusion between the co-owned premium and streaming services since the announcement of the latter's HBO Max branding.) The service HBO Max would launch in the Spring of 2020 (later targeted for May 27 of that year). Also announced at that time was that, through Warner Bros.'s ownership of the series, Friends (which had been available on Netflix) would migrate to HBO Max upon the service's launch; Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine and Greg Berlanti had also signed production deals with the service to develop supplementary original programming (to be branded as "Max Originals"), which will be co-produced by Warner Max, a production unit formed as a joint venture between Home Box Office, Inc. and Warner Bros. Entertainment to develop content for HBO Max. With HBO Max's launch, WarnerMedia began phasing out the legacy HBO Go and HBO Now platforms, and converted existing subscribers of those services to the HBO Max app on all partner platforms.
HBO's programming schedule currently consists largely of theatrically released feature films--which occupy the majority of its daily schedule--and adult-oriented original series (including, as of April 2020Euphoria, My Brilliant Friend, Succession and Westworld; comedies such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Insecure, Barry, Los Espookys and High Maintenance; and topical satires Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Real Time with Bill Maher). In addition, HBO also carries documentary films, sports-centric documentary and magazine series, occasional original made-for-TV movies and specials (the latter consisting of concert and stand-up comedy programs), original children's programming, and short-form behind-the-scenes specials centered mainly on theatrical films (either running in their initial theatrical or HBO/Cinemax broadcast window). Newer episodes of most HBO original programs usually air over its main channel after 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time; depending partly on the day's programming schedule, repeats of original series, made-for-cable movies and documentaries (typically excluding programs with graphic violent or sexual content) are shown during the daytime hours on the main channel, and at various times on HBO's themed channels. Four of the themed multiplex channels--HBO Signature, HBO Family, HBO Comedy and HBO Zone--also each carry archived HBO original series and specials dating to the 1990s. (Outside of HBO Family, which regularly airs archived family-oriented series and specials, this may vary on the channel's daily schedule.), dramas such as
Beginning with its programming expansion to afternoons in 1974, the primary HBO channel had imposed a longstanding watershed policy prohibiting films that are assigned an "R" rating from being broadcast before 8:00 p.m. ET/PT. The policy--which was applied to programs airing between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. ET/PT when HBO began offering 24-hour programming on weekends in September 1981--may have once stemmed from HBO's pre-mid-2000s availability on analog cable tiers (whereas its multiplex channels generally require a digital cable subscription or at least scrambling), and, initially citing controversy surrounding daytime showings of R-rated films that began being scheduled on competing premium services as early as 1980, remained in place well after the V-chip became standard in newer television sets. From April 1979 to April 1986, rating bumpers preceding HBO telecasts of R-rated films included a special notice indicating to viewers that the movie would air exclusively during the designated watershed period ("Home Box Office/HBO will show this feature only at night"). The watershed policy was extended to cover TV-MA-rated programs when the TV Parental Guidelines were implemented industry-wide on January 1, 1997. As of 2020 , HBO has watered down its enforcement of this policy. Erosion of this policy began in January 2010, when the main HBO channel started allowing original series, movies and documentaries given a TV-MA rating for strong profanity and/or non-graphic violence during the daytime on Saturdays and Sundays; in January 2012, HBO included occasional Sunday daytime airings of R-rated films as early as 4:00 p.m. ET/PT within its weekly repeat showing of the Saturday movie premiere (depending on the previous night's scheduled premiere film, said film's length, and HBO original series that may follow the Sunday rebroadcast), though by 2017, afternoon R-rated movie airings (which occasionally have been shown as early as 2:00 p.m. ET/PT since then) were randomly scheduled on any day of the week. Most of the six HBO thematic multiplex channels--except for HBO Family, which prohibits programming containing either equivalent rating by effect of the channel's target audience--air TV-MA and R-rated programming during morning and afternoon time periods. HBO also does not typically allow most NC-17 rated films to be aired on the primary channel or its multiplex channels.
HBO pioneered the free preview concept--which has since become a standard in the pay television industry--in 1973, as part of a plan to increase subscribership of the channel. Cable providers were originally granted permission to carry HBO on a local origination channel in order for those who are not subscribers the ability to view the channel for a limited number of days; with the advent of digital cable and satellite, providers now unencrypt the designated slots of each HBO channel during preview periods. Until the mid-1990s, on-air promotions featured between programs were replaced (and later, merely interspersed) with interstitials featuring on-air hosts asking viewers to subscribe to the service. Although participation was voluntary, preview events are carried by most major and some smaller pay television providers (the number of providers and the providers that choose to offer the event varies depending on the given free preview period, and may not be carried on all systems owned by a multiple system operator unless at the provider's discretion); HBO currently offers between three and five preview events each year to participating providers (which are normally scheduled to coincide with the premiere of a new or returning original series, and in the past, a high-profile special or feature film).
The network also produces short segments promoting new movies with the cooperation of the film studios that hold releasing rights to the projects. These usually consist of either interstitial segments providing a behind-the-scenes look at the making of an upcoming/recently released film, with interviews with the actors and principal crew, or red carpet coverage, which are almost universally produced by studios with which HBO and Cinemax maintain exclusive premium television broadcast rights. Depending on their length or content, these are either aired as part of the feature segment HBO News (formerly titled HBO Entertainment News from 1988 to 2007), which airs during extended promotional breaks between programs and runs between three and five minutes, or as part of HBO First Look, a series of documentary-style interstitial specials (usually running 15 to 20 minutes in length, with no set schedule) that debuted in 1992. These segments, particularly episodes of First Look, have also often been included as bonus features on DVD and Blu-ray releases of the films that were profiled (many of which have aired on HBO and Cinemax once they reached their pay-cable distribution windows), though broadcasts of these interstitials have begun to be reduced to only a few episodes per year as HBO has focused on its higher-profile, long-form original programming instead and studios have internally produced behind-the-scenes featurettes for their films for exclusive physical and digital media release.
During the earlier years of the network, HBO aired various interstitial segments in-between films and other programming, originally billed as Something Short and Special. Around 1980, InterMissions, as the interstitials were began to be called in September 1978, were bannered in two groupings: Video Jukebox, a showcase of music videos from various artists (these segments were eventually separated from the other intermission shorts and gained various longform spinoffs, also titled as Video Jukebox or variants thereof), and Special, which showcased short films. By 1984, the short segments had largely been reduced to comedic short films (originally named HBO Comedy Shorts and then as HBO Short Takes, which used a set of different animated intros) and HBO Shorts for Kids, comsisting of youth-targeted live action and animated short films seen largely before and during family-oriented programming. By the end of the 1980s, intermission shorts had largely vanished from the channel.
Since 1975, HBO has produced a variety of original programming--including dramatic and comedic series, made-for-TV movies and entertainment specials--alongside its slate of theatrical motion pictures. Most of these programs cater to adult viewers (and, with limited exceptions, are typically assigned TV-MA ratings), often featuring--with such content varying by program--high amounts of profanity, violence, sexual themes and/or nudity that basic cable or over-the-air broadcast channels would be reticent to air, because of objections from sponsors and the risk of them pulling or refusing to sell their advertising, depending on the objectionable material that a sponsor is comfortable placing their advertising. (Incidentally since the early 2000s, some ad-supported basic cable channels--like FX and Comedy Central--have incorporated stronger profanity, somewhat more pervasive violence and sexual themes and/or occasional nudity in their original programs, similar to content featured in original programs shown on HBO and other premium services, with relatively limited advertiser issues.)
Mainly because it is not beholden to the preferences of advertisers, HBO has long been regarded in the entertainment industry for letting program creators maintain full creative autonomy over their projects, allowing them to depict gritty subject matter that--prior to basic cable channels and streaming services deciding to follow the model set by HBO and other pay cable services--had not usually been shown on other television platforms. During the "Executive Actions" symposium held by The Washington Post and George Washington University in April 2015 (shortly after the launch of the HBO Now streaming service), then-HBO CEO Richard Plepler said that he does not want the network to be akin to Netflix in which users "binge watch" its television shows and film content, saying "I don't think it would have been a great thing for HBO or our brand if that had been gobbled up in the first week[...] I think it was very exciting for the viewer to have that mystery held out for an extended period of time." Pleper cited that he feels that binge watching does not correlate with the culture of HBO and HBO watchers.
Some of its original programs, however, have been aimed at families or children, primarily those produced before 2001 (through its original programming division and third-party producers) and from 2016 to 2020 (under its agreement with Sesame Workshop); children's programs that have aired on HBO have included Sesame Street, Babar, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, Dear America and The Little Lulu Show. Beginning in 2001, most of the family- or kid-oriented programs had migrated to HBO Family, with only a limited amount of newer family-oriented series being produced for either the primary channel or HBO Family since. (HBO Family continued to maintain a limited slate of original children's programming until 2003.) In a notable example, HBO ventured back into children's programming with its acquisition of the first-run and streaming rights to Sesame Street, a long-running children's television series that had previously aired on PBS for the vast majority of its run, in the aforementioned deal with Sesame Workshop that was announced in August 2015; the migration of Sesame Street and other Sesame Workshop series from the linear television service to the streaming-based HBO Max in 2020, was agreed upon in a renewal of WarnerMedia's content agreement with the studio reached in October 2019.
The channel also produces stand-up comedy specials--formerly broadcast under the On Location, HBO Comedy Hour and HBO Comedy Half-Hour banners--which usually premiere on select Saturday nights throughout the year in late prime time (typically following its Saturday movie premiere presentation). The On Location comedy specials, which presented a stand-up comedian's performance in its entirety and uncut, began on December 31, 1975 with the premiere of An Evening with Robert Klein, the first of nine HBO stand-up specials that the comic headlined over 35 years. George Carlin headlined the most comedy specials for the network, making 12 appearances between 1977 and 2008; his first, On Location: George Carlin at USC (aired on September 1, 1977), featured Carlin's first televised performance of his classic routine, "The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television". As other cable channels incorporated comedy specials due to their inexpensive format, HBO began to model its strategy with its comedy specials after its music programming, focusing on a few specials each year featuring popular comedians.
At irregular intervals between 1986 and 2010, HBO served as the primary broadcaster of Comic Relief USA fundraising specials to help health and welfare assistance programs focused on America's homeless population. Developed by Comic Relief founder Bob Zmuda in conjunction with former HBO executive Chris Albrecht, all 11 HBO editions of the fundraisers aired between 1986 and 2010 (out of the 15 produced by the charity over its 24-year existence) were hosted by Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, featuring performances by stand-up comedians, improvisational comics and impressionists, and appearances by celebrities and politicians as well as documentary segments showing issues affecting the homeless. HBO and other sponsors handled all or most of the incurred costs of the Comic Relief events to ensure that money raised or contributed is distributed to the charity.
Concert-based music specials are occasionally produced for the channel, featuring major recording artists performing in front of a live audience. One of HBO's first successful specials was The Bette Midler Show (debuting on June 19, 1976), which was the launch special of the Standing Room Only concert series. For a time in the early 1980s, HBO produced a concert special almost every other month, featuring major music stars such as Boy George and The Who. After MTV's successful rollout in 1981, the Standing Room Only series began to produce fewer concerts, but focused more on "world class" music events featuring artists such as Elton John, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner and Barbra Streisand, as well as fundraisers such as Farm Aid.Michael Jackson: Live in Bucharest, recorded on the first leg of his 1992-93 Dangerous Tour, holds the record as HBO's highest-rated special with 3.7 million viewers (21.4 rating/34 share) watching the October 10, 1992, premiere telecast. The special is also believed to be the largest financial deal for a televised concert performance on television, with estimates from music industry executives indicating that HBO paid around $20 million for the rights. In recent years, concert specials have had an increasingly marginal role among HBO's television specials, limited to an occasional marquee event or the annual induction ceremony of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
As of May 2020,HBO and sister channel Cinemax maintain exclusive first-run film licensing and library agreements with three major and one mid-major movie studios:
HBO also maintains sub-run agreements--covering television and streaming licensing of films that have previously received broadcast or syndicated television airings--for theatrical films distributed by Paramount Pictures (including content from subsidiaries and/or acquired library partners The Cannon Group, Carolco Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies and Republic Pictures, all for films released prior to 2011), Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (including content from Walt Disney Pictures, and former subsidiaries Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures and Miramax), Sony Pictures Entertainment (including content from subsidiaries/library partners Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics, ELP Communications, Morgan Creek, Screen Gems, Revolution Studios, and former HBO sister company TriStar Pictures, all for films released prior to 2005), the former Time Inc. subsidiary Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (including content from subsidiaries United Artists, Orion Pictures and The Samuel Goldwyn Company), and Lions Gate Entertainment (for films released prior to 2010).
Films to which HBO maintains traditional telecast and streaming rights will usually also be shown on the Cinemax television and streaming platforms during their licensing agreement period (either after a film title completes its HBO window or transfers between services over certain months during the contractual period). Feature films from the aforementioned studios that maintain joint licensing contracts encompassing both services will typically make their premium television debut on HBO approximately two to three months before their premiere on Cinemax and vice versa.
HBO also produces made-for-cable television movies through sister production unit HBO Films, which traces its origins to the 1983 founding of HBO Premiere Films. Originally developed to produce original television movies and miniseries with higher budgets and production values than other telefilms, the film unit's first original movie project was the 1983 biopic The Terry Fox Story. Differing from other direct-to-cable television films, most of HBO's original movies have been helmed by major film actors (such as James Stewart, Michael Douglas, Drew Barrymore, Stanley Tucci, Halle Berry and Elizabeth Taylor). The unit--which would be rechristened HBO Pictures in 1985--expanded beyond its telefilm slate, which was scaled back to focus on independent film production in 1984. The current HBO Films unit was formed in October 1999 through the consolidation of HBO Pictures and HBO NYC Productions (originally created as HBO Showcase in 1986, and following its June 1996 restructuring, had also occasionally produced drama series for the network). Since 1984, HBO Films has also maintained an exclusive licensing agreement with HBO (later expanded to include Cinemax) for theatrical productions produced by the unit and, since HBO became co-owned with the film division through the 1989 Time-Warner merger, distributed through Warner Bros. Entertainment.
HBO's agreement with Warner Bros. began as a five-year agreement signed in June 1986, encompassing films released between January 1987 and December 1992, with estimates of between $300 million and $600 million for the pay-cable rights, depending on the overall performance of Warner's films and HBO/Cinemax's respective subscribership. Although the Warner deal was initially non-exclusive, a preemptive strategy in the event that its co-owned rivals Showtime and The Movie Channel (which elected not to pick up any spare Warner titles) sought full exclusivity over movie rights, the terms gave Warner an option to require HBO to acquire exclusive rights to titles covered under the remainder of the deal for $60 million per year (in addition to a guaranteed $65-million fee for each year of the contract). As a result of the 1989 Time-Warner merger, HBO and Cinemax holds pay-cable exclusivity over all newer Warner Bros. films for the duration of their joint ownership. 20th Century Fox first signed an non-exclusive deal with HBO in January 1986, covering Fox films released between 1985 and 1988, along with a production co-financing agreement involving HBO original programs; the pact transitioned to an exclusivity arrangement with the 1988 renewal. The first-run film output agreement with Fox was renewed by HBO for ten years on August 15, 2012 (with a provision allowing the studio to release its films through digital platforms such as iTunes and Amazon Video during the channel's term of license of an acquired film for the first time). While The Walt Disney Company completed its acquisition of 20th Century Fox in March 2019, Disney maintains an output deal with its in-house streaming services Disney+ and Hulu for films produced and/or distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and its subsidiaries (which have not distributed their films over a traditional pay-cable service since the studio's agreement with HBO rival Starz ended in 2015), whereas any decision affecting the future of Fox's contractual agreement with HBO has yet to be formally announced as of May 2020 .
HBO's relationship with Universal first began in March 1984, when it signed a six-year non-exclusivity deal with the studio; in April 1990, Universal elected to sign a deal with CBS for the licensing rights to a package of the studio's ten 1989 releases, bypassing the traditional pay-cable window. The current Universal output deal--which began as an eight-year agreement that originally lasted through December 2010, assuming the studio's pay-cable rights from Starz--was renewed for ten years on January 6, 2013; the current deal gives HBO right of first refusal over select Universal titles, allowing the studio to exercise an option to license co-distributed live-action films to Showtime and animated films to Netflix if HBO elects not to obtain pay television rights to a particular film. (Universal put a 50% cap on title acquisitions for the first year of the initial 2003-10 contract, intending to split the rights between HBO and Starz as consolation for the latter outbidding HBO for the Sony Pictures output deal.) The first-run output deal with Summit Entertainment--which initially ran through December 2017, and replaced Showtime (which had exclusive rights to its films from January 2008 until December 2012) as the studio's pay-cable output partner when it initially went into effect in 2013--was renewed by HBO for an additional four years on March 1, 2016. (Summit is currently the only "mini-major" movie studio and the only studio not among the five core majors that maintains an exclusive output deal with HBO.)
Being the first pay-cable service to go national, for many years, HBO was advantageous in acquiring film licensing rights from major and independent studios; until Showtime, The Movie Channel and other premium channels started beefing up their movie product to compete with HBO in the early 1980s, HBO's dominance in the pay-cable led many motion picture companies that it held monopoly power in the pay cable industry and a disproportionate advantage in film acquisition negotiations. During the early years of premium cable, the major American movie studios often sold the pay television rights to an individual theatrical film title to multiple "maxi-pay" and "mini-pay" services--often including HBO and later, Cinemax--resulting in frequent same-month scheduling duplication amongst the competing services. From its launch as a regional service, HBO purchased broadcast rights to theatrical movies on a per-title basis. The network pioneered the pay television industry practice, known as a "pre-buy," of buying the pay-cable rights to a movie from its releasing studio before it started filming, in exchange for agreeing to pay a specified share of a film's production costs; this allowed HBO to maintain exclusivity over film output arrangements and to save money allocated for film acquisitions. In June 1976, it signed a four-year exclusive deal with Columbia Pictures for a package of 20 films released between January 1977 and January 1981, in exchange for then-parent company Time, Inc. committing a $5-million production financing investment with Columbia over a period of between 12 and 18 months.
Although HBO executives were reluctant at first to strike such arrangements, by the mid-1980s, the channel had transitioned to exclusive film output deals (now the standard among North American premium channels), in which a film studio licenses all or a proportion of their upcoming productions to a partner service over a multi-year contract. In 1983, HBO entered into three exclusive licensing agreements tied to production financing arrangements involving Tri-Star Pictures (formed as a co-production venture between Time, Inc./HBO, Columbia and CBS Inc.), Columbia Pictures (an exclusivity-based contract extension initially covering 50% of the studio's pre-June 1986 releases with a non-compete option to purchase additional Columbia titles) and Orion Pictures (encompassing a package of 30 films, in return for financial participation and a $10-million securities investment). All three deals were approved under a U.S. Department of Justice review greenlighting the Tri-Star venture in June of that year. (The Tri-Star deal became non-exclusive in January 1988, although Showtime elected not to acquire titles from HBO's film rights lessees.) After the exclusive contract transferred to Showtime in January 1994, in July 1995, HBO preemptively signed a five-year deal with the studio that took effect in January 2000, in conjunction with a five-year extension of its existing deal with Columbia Pictures. (Columbia and TriStar's respective output deals with HBO ended on December 31, 2004, when Sony Pictures transferred exclusive pay-cable rights for their films to Starz--which as of May 2020 , holds rights to televise all newer films from either studio through December 2021, pending renewal--after HBO declined a request by Columbia during contract negotiations to allow the studio to experimentally distribute its theatrical films via streaming video during its contract window.)
In February 1983, HBO signed an agreement with Silver Screen Partners (a now-defunct joint venture between HBO, Silver Screen Management, Thorn EMI and The Cannon Group), in which HBO had right of first refusal in the film selection and received 5% of all profits derived from non-pay-cable distribution of the studio's films; the Silver Screen agreement concluded upon the studio's cessation in 1998. In early 1984, HBO abandoned the exclusivity practice, citing internal research that concluded that subscribers showed indifference to efforts by premium channels to secure rights to studios' full slate of recently released films from to distinguish their programming due to VHS availability preceding pay-cable distribution in the release window. This change came after Frank Biondi was fired as HBO Chairman, reportedly for having "overextended the network in pre-buy and exclusive movie deals" as subscribership of pay-cable services declined. Biondi's replacement, Michael J. Fuchs, structured some of the subsequent deals as non-exclusive to allow HBO to divert more funding toward co-producing made-for-cable movies, other original programming and theatrical joint ventures (via Tri-Star and Silver Screen Partners).
In September 1986, the network signed a five-year agreement with MGM/UA Communications Co. for a package of up to 72 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and United Artists films. In July 1987, HBO signed a five-year, $500-million deal for exclusive rights to 85 Paramount Pictures films to have been tentatively released between May 1988 and May 1993. Though this contract would herald the end of its embargo on new film exclusivity deals, HBO's then-CEO Michael Fuchs cited Showtime-The Movie Channel parent Viacom (which, at the time, had debt in excess of $2.4 billion) for it having to obtain exclusivity for the Paramount package, which the studio approached HBO directly to bid. The Paramount package remained with HBO/Cinemax until December 1997; Showtime assumed the pay-cable rights to the studio's films in January 1998, under a seven-year deal reached as a byproduct of Viacom's 1994 purchase of Paramount from Paramount Communications, and held them until December 2008. (Shared rival Epix--created as a consortium between Paramount/Viacom, Lionsgate and now-sole owner MGM--took over pay television rights upon that network's October 2009 launch.)
In March 1995, HBO signed a ten-year deal with the then-upstart DreamWorks SKG valued at between $600 million and $1 billion, depending on the total output of films and generated revenue during the contract, covering the studio's tentative releases between January 1996 and December 2006. By result of the 2004 spin-off of its animation arm DreamWorks Animation into a standalone company, DreamWorks' pay-cable distribution rights were split up into separate contracts: in March 2010, Showtime acquired the rights to live-action films from the original DreamWorks studio (coinciding with the transfer of co-production agreement from Paramount Pictures to Touchstone Pictures, then a Showtime distribution partner) for five years, effective January 2011. Then in September 2011, after HBO agreed to waive the last two years of its contract, Netflix acquired the DreamWorks Animation contract effective upon the December 2012 expiration of the HBO deal. (Prior to the 2015 launch of HBO Now, HBO required its studio output partners to suspend digital sales of their movies during their exclusive contractual window with the network; the Netflix deal was not subject to any distribution restrictions, allowing DreamWorks Animation to continue the re-sale of its films through digital download via third-party providers.)
Other film studios which formerly maintained first-run pay-cable contracts with HBO have included American Film Theatre (non-exclusive, 1975-1977),Walt Disney Productions (non-exclusive, 1978-1982),ITC Entertainment (non-exclusive, 1982-1990), New World Pictures (non-exclusive, 1982-1986), PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (non-exclusive, 1984-1989), Hemdale Film Corporation (non-exclusive from 1982-1986, and exclusive from 1987-1991)De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (non-exclusive, 1988-1991)Lorimar Motion Pictures (non-exclusive, 1987-1990), and Savoy Pictures (exclusive, 1992-1997)
HBO maintains an in-house documentary production and distribution unit, HBO Documentary Films, which releases between 10 and 15 documentaries per year (averaging about two premieres per month) for the network and provides limited theatrical distribution of certain films prior to their initial broadcast on HBO's linear television and streaming services.
The network's first successful documentary was the six-part 1979 miniseries Time Was, a Dick Cavett-hosted retrospective that took a historical look at an individual decade in the 20th century--from the 1920s up to the 1970s--over the course of each episode. 1981's She's Nobody's Baby--produced in conjunction with Ms. magazine--traced the evolution of the societal role of American women during the 20th Century; the special earned HBO its first Peabody Award, the first to be won by a pay television service and the first of many HBO documentaries to receive the prestigious award. HBO also produced a series of informational documentaries in partnership with Consumer Reports starting in 1980, detailing information on subjects encompassing product safety, personal finance and health. One such documentary, AIDS: Everything You and Your Family Need to Know...But Were Afraid to Ask, which aired in 1987 at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S., was hosted by then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and provided factual information on the AIDS and HIV viruses.
In 2006, film director Spike Lee made a two-part four-hour documentary on Hurricane Katrina, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. Also in 2006, documentary artist Lauren Greenfield directed Thin, a feature-length film about four young women struggling with eating disorders seeking treatment at the Renfrew Clinic in Florida. 2008 saw the U.S. television premiere of Baghdad High, which depicted the lives of four boys attending a high school in the Iraqi capital city over the course of one year, through a video diary filmed by the documentary's principal subjects who were provided cameras to film the project.
In November 2008, HBO paid low seven figures for the U.S. television rights to the Amy Rice-Alicia Sams documentary By the People: The Election of Barack Obama. The film--which had a limited theatrical release in New York City and Los Angeles, and aired on HBO in November 2009--covered Obama's 2006 trip to Africa, his presidential primary campaign, the 2008 general election and his first Presidential inauguration. In November 2012, HBO aired the four-part documentary, Witness, which devoted each part to one of four conflict regions--Juarez, Libya, South Sudan and Rio de Janeiro--as covered by a team of photojournalists based in those regions. On March 28, 2013, the channel premiered the Alexandra Pelosi-directed Fall to Grace, about the infidelity scandal that led to the 2011 resignation of New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey and resulted in him coming out as gay.
In February 2015, HBO premiered a six-part documentary from Andrew Jarecki, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, chronicling the mystery surrounding the New York real estate heir's alleged involvement in the unsolved 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathie Durst; the 2000 execution-style killing of writer Susan Berman; and the 2001 death and dismemberment of Durst's neighbor, Morris Black. The miniseries gained broader exposure after Durst was arrested on first-degree murder charges in relation to Berman's death on March 14, 2015 (one day prior to the docuseries's finale). The evidence leading to his arrest included an envelope left by Berman after her murder and provided to the filmmakers for analysis by her stepson, Sareb Kaufman, with misspelled block letter handwriting matching an anonymous envelope sent to police in December 2000 to alert them to Berman's murder, and a rambling apparent confession by Durst--unaware that the microphone attached to him for his interview with Jarecki was still recording--to the murders of all three victims.
HBO has also produced recurring documentary series, among the earliest and most notable being America Undercover, a banner that also spawned regular sub-series Real Sex (a late night magazine-formatted series of specials that ran from 1992 to 2009, featuring frank explorations on a variety of mainstream and non-mainstream sexual matters) and Autopsy (a series of specials that aired between 1994 and 2008, in which forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden provides analysis on criminal, suspicious and health-related death cases). One of America Undercover most notable specials was 1985's Soldiers in Hiding, focusing on homeless veterans of the Vietnam War living in the wilderness, which won the first Academy Award for a cable television service in the Best Documentary category (although HBO has had some of its documentaries enter limited theatrical release to qualify for Oscar nominations in later years). HBO is also noted for its Sports of the 20th Century documentary brand. One of its most notable documentaries from that series was Dare to Dream, a 2005 film about the U.S. Women's Soccer Team and the roles of Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett and Julie Foudy in the team's rise to prominence in sports.
Through a partnership with Vice Media, the network ran a monthly docuseries, Vice, featuring in-depth reports from host/creator/Vice magazine co-founder Shane Smith and a team of correspondents investigating political and cultural topics and utilizing an immersionist filmmaking style. Running for six seasons from April 2013 to December 2018, the show won an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Informational Series or Special" in 2014.Vice was cancelled on February 1, 2019, as part of a broader corporate reorganization at Vice Media; a companion daily news show, Vice News Tonight, was cancelled on June 10, 2019, when HBO announced it would be terminating its seven-year partnership with the company. (The Vice docuseries moved to Showtime and Vice News Tonight moved to Vice on TV in March 2020.)
HBO broadcasts sports-related magazine and documentary series produced by HBO Sports, an in-house production division managed by WarnerMedia News and Sports (previously through Time Warner Sports from 1990 to 2018) that also produced selected sports event telecasts for the channel from its November 1972 launch until December 2018. HBO Sports has been headed by several well-known television executives over the years, including its founder Steve Powell (later head of programming at ESPN), Dave Meister (later head of the Tennis Channel), Seth Abraham (later head of MSG Network), and Ross Greenburg.
As HBO was being developed, the Time Inc./Sterling Communications partnership elected for a local origination channel operated by Sterling Manhattan Cable Television (which served as the progenitor of the MSG Network, currentlyJames L. Dolan) to handle production responsibities for home game broadcasts involving the New York Knicks and New York Islanders--both based at Madison Square Garden--that would be televised on HBO throughout its initial Northeastern U.S. service area. The first game under this arrangement was the New York Rangers-Vancouver Canucks NHL game that launched Home Box Office on November 8, 1972, and served as its inaugural sports broadcast. For the 1974-75 Rangers and Islanders seasons, HBO contracted MSG announcers for play-by-play and color commentating duties; this created a burden on announcers to fill what otherwise would be dead air over the HBO feed of the games, since the service does not accept advertising, during the MSG Network's commercial airtime. National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL) coverage expanded with HBO's transition into a national satellite service, covering non-New York-based teams in both leagues as well as select playoff games. In addition, beginning in 1975, HBO aired a selection of American Basketball Association (ABA) games; notably, it carried the 1976 ABA Finals--the league's last tournament game prior to the completion of its merger with the NBA--a six-game tournament in which the New York Nets beat the Denver Nuggets four games to two. (Both leagues discontinued their HBO telecasts after their respective 1976-77 seasons.)owned by HBO founder Charles Dolan and controlled by his son,
Through 1977, HBO carried other sporting events originating on the Sterling Manhattan/Manhattan Cable sports channel, including Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) tournaments (including the Men's Ice Hockey Tournament and the ECAC Holiday Festival basketball tournament); World TeamTennis; international high school basketball invitationals; the National Horse Show; equestrian, roller derby and ice skating events; the World Professional Karate Championships; the Millrose Games track and field invitational; the Westchester Kennel Club Dog Show; and World Wide Wrestling Federation matches. (The regionalized sports focus was soon copied by other local subscription television services launched during the 1970s and early 1980s, most notably PRISM, ONTV and Wometco Home Theater.) NCAA Division I college basketball games held at Madison Square Garden and, after becoming a national service, other venues (including the National Invitational Tournament and the Holiday Basketball Festival) were also carried by the network until the 1978-79 season.
For the 1974 season, HBO also provided regional coverage of New York Yankees Major League Baseball games. (New York independent station WPIX [now a CW affiliate], which held local rights to Yankees away games at the time, provided microwave signal pickup service for the games.) In September 1974, the FCC gave temporary authorization for HBO to carry three of the team's remaining regular season games; the ruling came after review spurred by a complaint filed by National Association of Broadcasters pay television committee chairman Willard Walbridge that HBO's distribution of Yankee games violated antisiphoning rules barring sports that have been regularly televised live on broadcast stations with a two-years period. (The Yankees telecasts ended after that season.) From 1973 to 1976, HBO carried Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) tournament events; beginning with the Winston-Salem Open on June 10, 1973, the network aired around 25 PBA tournaments, including eight which HBO co-sponsored over those three years. Dick Stockton, Marty Glickman and Spencer Ross served as play-by-play announcers, and Skee Foremsky acted as the color commentator for the bowling telecasts.
With the assistance of programming consultation and acquisition firm Trans World International, the expansion into a national service resulted in HBO expanding its sports coverage to include a broader array of events from the United States and Canada, including North American Soccer League (1976-1978), select Amateur Athletic Union tournaments (1976-1981), select LPGA golf tournaments (1976-1978), championship rodeo (1976-1978), the USGF National Gymnastics Championships (1976-1981), Skate Canada International (1976-1978), the Canadian Football League (1976-1978), non-basketball NCAA tournaments including the Men's Gymnastics Championships (1976-1978) and the Division I Baseball Championships (1977-1978). Most of the aforementioned events ceased to be part of HBO's sports offerings in 1978. The NCAA regular season and tournament events remained on HBO until the 1978-79 athletic season, shifting over to upstart basic cable network ESPN beginning with the 1979-80 athletic season under an exclusive national cable deal with the organization; USGF, AAU and select non-NCAA invitational events remained on the network until early 1981, thereafter limiting HBO's sports rights to boxing and Wimbledon.
In July 1975, HBO inaugurated regional coverage of the Wimbledon tennis tournament for its Northeastern U.S. subscribers. (That year saw Arthur Ashe defeat defending champion Jimmy Connors, 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4, in the Gentlemen's Singles final, becoming the first Black male to win a Wimbledon singles title.) Initially, the HBO telecasts of the tournament mainly consisted of replays culled from other video sources (including the BBC); HBO Sports began to employ an in-house team of commentators starting with the 1978 tournament. Throughout its tenure on the channel, Wimbledon coverage on HBO, which was the first to offer weekday tennis coverage on network television, consisted of singles and doubles events from the early rounds of the tournament; NBC (which had the over-the-air broadcast rights to Wimbledon since 1969) maintained rights to the quarterfinal, semifinal and final rounds as well as weekend early-round matches. (Prior to the arrival of Wimbledon, HBO also carried the men's and women's rounds of the U.S. National Indoor Championships from 1972 to 1976. Select WTA Tour events also aired on the network from 1977 to 1979.)
On June 25, 1999, HBO Sports announced it would not renew its share of Wimbledon television contract after the conclusion of that year's tournament, ending its 25-year broadcast relationship with the Grand Slam event. Seth Abraham, then-president of HBO Sports parent unit Time Warner Sports, said at the time that the decision was guided by a need to "refresh" its programming slate rather than because of issues with financial terms or stagnant viewership. (At the time of the announcement, HBO paid $8 million annually--under a $40-million deal over five years--to air the tournament.) Although ESPN, Fox Sports Net and USA Network each expressed interested in obtaining the cable package relinquished by HBO, Time Warner kept that portion of the Wimbledon contract within its corporate umbrella: on January 23, 2000, co-owned subsidiary Turner Broadcasting System and NBC reached a joint three-year, $30 million contract with the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for the tournament rights. TNT (which would be folded into WarnerMedia Entertainment, alongside HBO, as part of the realignment resulting from AT&T's 2018 acquisition of Time Warner) and CNN/SI (later moved to the also now-defunct CNNfn in 2002, after CNN/SI's shutdown), which would have their broadcasts produced through the TNT Sports unit, assumed cable rights to the event beginning with the 2000 tournament. (Since 2003, the Wimbledon cable rights have been held by ESPN, which assumed full U.S. television exclusivity over the championship in 2012.) Professional tennis briefly returned to HBO on March 2, 2009, when it broadcast the inaugural edition of the now-defunct BNP Paribas Showdown as a one-off special presentation.
HBO was long known for its telecasts of boxing matches (which usually aired on Saturday nights every two to three weeks on average), including those shown on its flagship sports program HBO World Championship Boxing, which premiered on January 22, 1973 with a headlining world heavyweight championship bout in Kingston, Jamaica, in which George Foreman defeated Joe Frazier in two rounds. Through 1979, HBO also carried various National Golden Gloves competitions, and from 1978 to 1979, carried the National Collegiate Boxing Association championships. On September 30, 1975, the "Thrilla in Manila" boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier aired on HBO and was the first program on the pay cable network to be broadcast via satellite. (From the 1987 move of its boxing telecasts to that night full-time until the elimination of live boxing on the channel in 2018, HBO scheduled the Pacific Time Zone broadcast of its Saturday film premieres later in the evening when a live special--either a boxing card or concert special--was scheduled to air that particular weekend, with the special being shown after the movie on the Eastern Time Zone feed.)
HBO expanded its boxing content to pay-per-view in December 1990, when it created a production arm to distribute and organize marquee boxing matches in conjunction with participating promoters, TVKO (rebranded HBO PPV in 2001); the first TVKO-produced boxing event was the April 19, 1991 "Battle of the Ages" bout between Evander Holyfield and George Foreman. (TVKO signed Holyfield away from Showtime, which had been carrying his matches since its Showtime Championship Boxing telecast premiered in 1986, under an agreement with promoter Dan Duva during Holyfield's reign as cruiserweight champion.)
HBO expanded its boxing slate on February 3, 1996, when HBO Boxing After Dark (titled HBO Late Night Fights for its inaugural edition) premiered with title fights involving junior featherweight (Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Kennedy McKinney) and junior bantamweight (Johnny Tapia vs. Giovanni Andrade) contenders. The program typically featured fight cards involving well-known contenders (generally those not designated as "championship" or "title" bouts), and up-and-coming boxing talents that had previously been featured mainly on basic cable boxing showcases (such as ESPN's Friday Night Fights). A second franchise extension, KO Nation (which ran from May 6, 2000 to August 11, 2001), attempted to incorporate hip-hop music performances between matches involving up-and-coming boxers to attract the show's target audience of males 18 to 24 (later broadened to ages 18 to 34) to the sport; former Yo! MTV Raps VJ Ed Lover was the "face" of the show and acted as its ring announcer. (Internal research stated that males aged 18-34 accounted for 3% of boxing viewership, while men 50 and older made up 60% of the sport's audience.)KO Nation drew low ratings throughout its run, even after it was moved from Saturday afternoons to Saturday late nights in January 2001. HBO Sports then refocused its efforts at attracting younger viewers through Boxing After Dark. To court the sport's Hispanic and Latino fans, the network's boxing franchises expanded to HBO Latino with the January 2003 premiere of Oscar De La Hoya Presenta Boxeo De Oro, a showcase of up-and-coming boxers represented by the De La Hoya-founded Golden Boy Promotions. A second boxing series for HBO Latino, Generación Boxeo, premiered on the multiplex channel in April 2006.
On September 27, 2018, HBO announced it would discontinue its boxing telecasts after 45 years, following its last televised match on October 27, marking the end of live sports on the network. (Two additional World Championship Boxing/Boxing After Dark cards actually followed that originally scheduled final broadcast, airing respectively on November 24 and December 8, 2018.) HBO's decision to bow out of boxing telecasts was due to factors that included the influx of sports-based streaming services (such as DAZN and ESPN+) and issues with promoters that hampered its ability to acquire high-profile fight cards, and resulting declining ratings and loss of interest in the sport among HBO's subscribers. Also factoring into the move was HBO parent WarnerMedia's then-recent ownership transfer to AT&T, and the network's efforts to focus around its scripted programming; network executives were of the opinion that "HBO [was] not a sports network." Since then, although it no longer produces sporting event telecasts, HBO Sports has continued to exist as a production unit for the network's sports magazine shows and documentaries.
HBO has offered other sports programming in the form of documentary- and interview-based weekly series. On September 22, 1977, HBO premiered the channel's first weekly original series, and its first sports-related documentary and analysis series, Inside the NFL, a program that featured post-game highlights and analysis of the previous week's marquee National Football League games (using footage provided by NFL Films) as well as interviews with players, coaches and team management. The program was one of the first studio shows on cable television to offer weekly NFL game reviews, predating the launches of similar football review shows on ESPN and other sports-centered cable networks. Inside the NFL would go on to become the network's longest-running program, airing for 30 seasons until it ended its HBO run in February 2008. (After HBO canceled the program, Inside the NFL was subsequently acquired by Showtime, under arrangement with CBS Sports, formally moving to the rival premium channel in September 2008.) The network would build upon Inside the NFL with debut of additional sports talk and documentary programs: the Major League Baseball-focused Race for the Pennant (1978-1992), HBO Sports Magazine (1981-1982), On the Record with Bob Costas (2001-2005) and its revamped iteration Costas Now (2005-2009), and Joe Buck Live (2009).
Another program built on similar groundwork, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel--which eventually became the network's flagship sports newsmagazine--premiered on April 2, 1995. The hour-long monthly series (originally airing quarterly until 1999), hosted by veteran television journalist and sportscaster Bryant Gumbel, has regularly received positive reviews for its groundbreaking journalism and typically features four stories centering on societal and athletic issues associated with the sports world, investigative reports, and interviews with famous athletes and other sports figures. As of 2020 , Real Sports has received 33 Sports Emmy Awards (including 19 for Outstanding Sports Journalism) throughout its run, as well as two Peabody Awards (in 2012 and 2016) and three duPont-Columbia University Awards. Of note, the show's 2004 Sports Emmy win for "Outstanding Sports Journalism" and 2006 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award win for "Outstanding Broadcast Journalism" was for a half-hour hidden camera investigative report--guided by human rights activist Ansar Burney--into slavery and torture in secret desert camps in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where boys younger than five years of age were trained in camel racing. The segment uncovered a carefully hidden child slavery ring that bought or kidnapped hundreds of young boys in Pakistan and Bangladesh, who were then forced to become camel jockeys in the UAE, and questioned the sincerity of U.S. diplomatic pressure on the UAE, an ally to the United States, to comply with the country's ban on children under age 15 from participating in camel racing. The documentary brought worldwide attention to the plight of child camel jockeys in the Middle East and helped the Ansar Burney Trust convince the governments of Qatar and the UAE to end the use of children in the sport.
In 2001, HBO and NFL Films began to jointly produce the documentary series Hard Knocks, which follows an individual NFL team each season during training camp and their preparations for the upcoming football season.
The HBO brand name has been licensed by Time Warner/WarnerMedia for various products based around the channel's programming.
In 2005, HBO entered into an agreement with Cingular Wireless (since integrated into the AT&T Mobility unit of HBO's present-day governing parent company AT&T) to establish HBO Mobile, a pre-smartphone era mobile subscription web service that provided information on HBO's original programming (including episode guides), mobile wallpapers and ringtones voiced by cast members of the channel's series. (HBO Mobile also operated a similar service, HBO Family Mobile, which offered full-length episodes of the channel's children's programming.) Also in 2005, Mattel and Screenlife released a custom version of the DVD interactive game Scene It?, featuring trivia relating to HBO's original series.
The original HBO logo imaging, used from the channel's November 1972 launch until the Spring of 1975, consisted of a minimalist lighted marquee surrounding a custom mixed-caps rendering of the "Home Box Office" name and an image of a ticket stub, the former and latter signifying the channel's focus at that time around film and event programming.
In March 1975, the first iteration of the current HBO logo was introduced. Originally co-designed by marketing firm Bemis Balkind with the assistance of then Time-Life art director Betty Brugger, the lettermark consists of an uppercase bold "HBO" text. The cylindrical 'O' resembles a bullseye (although it is also suggested to be styled after the tuning knobs found on television set and converter box models of the period); it originally obscured the right third of the 'B', creating the latter's unintended 'E' resemblance, until the current redrawn version was introduced in April 1980. (Both the 1975 and 1980 versions were used concurrently on-air in network identifications and certain promos until the former was fully discontinued in January 1981.) The simplicity of the logo makes it fairly easy to duplicate, something HBO has taken advantage of many times over the years; a proprietary typeface adapted from ITC Avant Garde (which, like the similar Kabel, had previously been used in some on-air and print marketing dating to 1978) that incorporated bullseye glyphs within the 'D' and 'O' capitals was developed internally in 2008 as a logotype for HBO Sports (including the unit's boxing productions and, by 2012, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel), the linear HBO high-definition and VOD services, and later for HBO Go.
The logo would become widely recognized through a program opening sequence, commonly nicknamed "HBO in Space", produced in late 1981 by New York City-based production firm Liberty Studios and used in some capacity from September 20, 1982 to September 30, 1997. The original 70-second version begins inside an apartment, where a man tunes a converter box to HBO on his family's television set, before sitting down to watch with his wife and, depending on daypart, their two children. (A variant starting with a dark cloudscape fading into the city sequence replaced the early version in December 1983.) As the camera pans out of the apartment window, a continuous stop motion flight (filmed on a computer-controlled camera) occurs over a custom-built model cityscape and countryside set against a twilight cyclorama. After the camera pans upward at flight's end, a starburst--or "stargate" effect, made using two die-cut film slides--occurs and unveils a chrome-plated, brass HBO logo that flies through a moving starfield in outer space. As the HBO "space station" rotates toward the "O", rainbow-hued light rays (created using a fiber optic lighting rig) encircle that letter's top side, sparkling to reveal its interior wall and a center axis in the bullseye mark area, and streak counter-clockwise inside the "O"s inner wall, fading in a slide displaying the type of program being presented in three-dimensional block text--most commonly, "HBO Feature Presentation" for movies or other title cards for specials, series and film premieres (such as, among others, "Standing Room Only", "HBO Premiere Presentation", "HBO Special", "On Location" and "HBO Family Showcase"), most of which used custom end variants of the accompanying theme music--before more light streaks sweep and shine across the text and create a sparkling fadeout. (An abbreviated version--shown during most non-prime-time programming until October 31, 1986, and thereafter for early-prime-time movie telecasts, aside from premieres and most weekend presentations--commenced from the starburst and the flight of the HBO "space station".)
Most variants of this sequence--except for the feature presentation, "Saturday Night Movie" and "Sunday Night Movie" versions--were discontinued in November 1986. (In April 1993, the latter two versions were discontinued and the "Feature Presentation" variant was relegated to films aired in early prime time.) Variants of the intro are available on YouTube, including one uploaded to HBO's official YouTube channel; the sequence is also used as a movie introduction for the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, an annual event held near HBO's now-former New York City headquarters since 1992, and a seldom-used "World Premiere Presentation" variant was featured in the intro of the 2019 HBO stand-up comedy special Dan Soder: Son of a Gary. The nine-note signature of the sequence's orchestral fanfare--originally composed for Score Productions by Ferdinand Jay Smith III of Jay Advertising, who adapted the theme from the Scherzo movement of Antonín Dvo?ák's Ninth Symphony--eventually became the network's audio logo in October 1997, with the musical signature being featured in various arrangements (such as horns, guitar and piano) within HBO's feature presentation sequences, programming bumpers and network IDs since.
Another well-known HBO program opener, designed by Pacific Data Images and commonly nicknamed "Neon Lights", began non-prime-time movie presentations from November 1, 1986, to September 30, 1997. The sequence, set to a synth and electric guitar theme, begins with a rotation shot of a heliotrope HBO logo on a film strip as blue, green and pink light rays penetrate it and four radiating CGI slots; one ray then reaches a field of varied-color spheres that zoom outward to reveal a light purple HBO logo, which is overlaid by a cursive magenta "Movie" script against a black and purple sphere-dotted background.
A CGI feature presentation bumper harkening the 1982 sequence was used from November 5, 1998 to April 1, 2011. (The Pittard Sullivan-designed sequence replaced a series of six-second feature presentation bumpers designed by the firm as part of an accompanying network imaging package introduced in October 1997 and used as ID bumpers in some capacity until May 2002, showing the HBO logo in different settings--such as appearing as a fish in water, as a celebrity arriving at a film premiere in a limousine, and as a large neon sign outlining the roof of a skycraper.) It commenced outside a movie theater facade (featuring "HBO Feature Presentation" displayed on the marquee), leading into a trek across countryside road, snowy mountain cliffside, and desert settings--respectively passing under an electrical transmission tower and an above-ground tunnel, and through a tank trailer cylinder shaped in each letter of the HBO lettermark; a metropolitan neighborhood follows, culminating in a flying leap above a bridge between two skyscrapers, and a slower-speed panning shot above an HBO-lettermark-shaped lake outlined by spotlights before a 3D animation of the "Feature Presentation" text forms. (An abbreviated variant that preceded movies aired outside of weekend prime time excerpts the footage following the skyscraper leap.)
The sequences that followed over the next six years were shorter, minimalist intros from Viewpoint Creative (with Jesse Vartanian designing the 2011 version), both based on graphics packages for the HBO channels introduced respectively on April 2, 2011 and in April 2014. (The first featured faint auroras against a black background, and the HBO logo and "Feature Presentation" text; the second featured cascading screenshots from theatrical films then in HBO's program library that led to the "HBO Feature Presentation" titling.) Another title sequence paying homage to the 1982 opening--designed by Imaginary Forces, and accompanied by a Smith-inspired theme by Man Made Music--debuted on March 4, 2017. The live-action/CGI sequence, set inside a metropolis within the HBO letterforms, features groups of people (respectively a married couple, a pair of teenage siblings watching via tablet in their bedroom, a family with four children, and a group of adult friends) gathering in their homes to watch an HBO movie; the sequence's second and third living room segments include brief glimpses of the HBO "space station" segment from the 1982 intro. (An eight-second variant--beginning at the reveal of the HBO metropolis letterform--has been used for most film presentations, aside from the Saturday movie premieres, since September 2018; HBO Max has used a four-second variant for films featured on its main HBO content portal since it launched in May 2020.)
Unlike other pay television networks (including the multiplex channels of sister channel Cinemax), HBO does not feature in-program on-screen logo bugs on its main feed and multiplex channels; however, until their respective "The Works"-era logos were discontinued in April 2014, channel-specific on-screen bugs were previously shown during promotional breaks between programs on the six thematic HBO multiplex channels.
Since 1991, Home Box Office, Inc. has overseen expansions of the HBO service into international markets, establishing regionalized channels in five continents (including dedicated services in Brazil, Canada, Eastern Europe, India, Mexico, Pakistan, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia) as well as forming several distribution partnerships to syndicate HBO programs to other broadcast networks, cable channels and video on demand services outside the United States, such as:
|Australia||Fox Showcase||Cable channel provided on Foxtel|
|Belgium||Be 1||Cable channel and on demand service, provided in French|
|Canada||HBO||Premium cable channel; brand and programming licensed under agreement with Bell Media|
|Denmark||HBO Nordic||Video on demand service|
|Estonia||HBO Baltics||Video on demand service|
|Finland||HBO Nordic||Video on demand service|
|Gozo||Melita More||Cable channel|
|Indian subcontinent||Disney+ Hotstar||Video on demand service owned by Star India, which maintains regional streaming rights to HBO original programs|
|Latvia||HBO Baltics||Video on demand service|
|Lithuania||HBO Baltics||Video on demand service|
|Malta||Melita More||Cable channel|
|MENA region||"HBO Night" Block on OSN Series First|
|New Zealand||SoHo||Satellite-originated television channel|
|Norway||HBO Nordic||Video on demand service|
|HBO Portugal||Video on demand service|
|Romania||HBO Romania||Cable channel/video on demand service|
|Russia||Amedia Home of HBO|
|San Marino||Sky Atlantic|
|Sub-Sahara Africa||M-net Binge|
|Sweden||HBO Nordic||Video on demand service|
|The Netherlands||Ziggo||Video on demand service|
|United Kingdom||Sky Atlantic|
The reaction to "Larry Sanders", perhaps the most widely acclaimed new comedy on television, has stunned him.