Home Box Office 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 the Home Box Office, Inc. facilities inside WarnerMedia’s corporate headquarters at 30 Hudson Yards in Manhattan's West Side district, HBO is the first, oldest and longest continuously operating subscription television service 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 and HBO Now, and its content is the centerpiece of HBO Max, a separately operated, expanded streaming platform operated that also includes original programming produced exclusively for the service 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, Amazon and Roku customers through streaming partnerships with those companies.
Overview, HBO's programming was available to approximately 35.656 million U.S. households that had a subscription to a multichannel television provider, giving it the largest subscriber total of any American premium channel. In addition to its U.S. subscriber base, HBO distributes its programming content in at least 151 countries worldwide.
HBO subscribers generally pay for an extra tier of service that includes other cable- and satellite-originated channels even before paying for the channel itself. However, a regulation imposed by the Federal Communications Commission requires that cable providers allow subscribers to just purchase "limited" basic cable and premium services such as HBO, without subscribing to expanded service. As a consequence of the primary HBO channel being migrated to digital packages on most systems during the early-to-mid 2000s, cable providers typically require the use of a digital set-top converter box 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 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 to customers that do not have an existing subscription to a multichannel television service and/or the linear HBO channel tier. 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 ; 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, original content developed by in-house production unit WarnerMax and content from third-party distributors. HBO also offers a la carte subscriptions independent of a traditional pay television platform through Apple TV Channels, Amazon Video Channels and The Roku Channel. In addition to its VOD content library, the subscription channels offered via Apple, Roku and Amazon Video offer live feeds of HBO's linear television services, which are not currently viewable over its proprietary streaming platforms.
Home Box Office, Inc. maintains a marketing unit, HBO Bulk, which sells the linear packages of HBO and Cinemax and their respective streaming platforms as well as associated consumer marketing materials to hotels, apartments and dormitories. HBO has maintained near-ubiquitous distribution in hotels and motels 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 franchisees of national hotel/motel chains. Although Home Box Office, Inc. does not keep counts of its national hotel distribution, content and connectivity solutions company LodgeNet estimated in 2008 that HBO was available to 98% of all hotels for which the company distributes cable or satellite service. 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. HBO began service tests at around one dozen hotels beginning in 1978; it began authorizing cable affiliates to provide the service to local hotels and motels in April 1978, and signed its first wide hospitality distribution deal with Holiday Inn in July 1979.
Many HBO programs have been syndicated to other networks and broadcast television stations, and a number of HBO-produced series and films have been released on DVD. Since HBO's more successful series have currently or previously aired on terrestrial broadcasters in other countries, 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, 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.
DevelopmentHBO's origins trace to December 1, 1965, when Charles Dolan—who had already done pioneering work in the commercial use of cables—was granted a franchise permit by the New York City Council to build a cable television system encompassing the Lower Manhattan section of New York City. Dolan was one of three applicants to be awarded cable franchise permits by the City of New York on that date, joined by TelePrompTer Corporation and CATV Enterprises Inc.. Dolan's maiden television venture was Teleguide, a closed-circuit television system he started in June 1962, distributing a schedule of tourist information, news, interview segments and feature interstitials to hotels, and by 1964, apartment buildings and office buildings in the New York metropolitan area.
Through Dolan's company, Sterling Information Services, Manhattan Cable TV Services began limited cable service in September 1966. Manhattan Cable was the first urban underground cable television system to operate in the United States. Rather than string up cable on telephone poles or use microwave antennas to receive the signals, Sterling had laid new cable lines beneath the streets of and into buildings throughout Manhattan, and repurposed Teleguide's existing cable infrastructure for use by the new operation. Sterling's use of underground cables complied 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—requiring all electrical and telecommunication wiring to be laid underground to limit weather-related service disruptions, and because the multitude of tall buildings on Manhattan Island subjected television signals to reception impairments. Dolan curried the financial backing of Time-Life, Inc., resulting in Manhattan Cable becoming one of the company's first cable system properties. Despite the investments from Time-Life's share of Sterling, Sterling Manhattan consistently lost money throughout its first six years of operation; the company incurred much of its debt from underground wiring expenses, and its difficulties attracting new subscribers to generate income. On August 27, 1969, in an ownership consolidation of the cable assets, Sterling Communications acquired the 49% share in Sterling Manhattan held by Time-Life, in exchange for stock and other assets worth $1.84 million.
Desperate to keep the company afloat, Dolan began conceiving ideas to help make Sterling Manhattan profitable. In the summer of 1971, while on a family vacation en route to France aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2, he began developing a proposal for a cable-originated television channel. The concept, codenamed "The Green Channel", was for 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 and sold for a flat monthly fee to prospective subscribers. Dolan wanted to offset the service's start-up costs by having Sterling enter into carriage agreements with other cable television providers to transmit and sell the service to their customers, and draw revenue from fees charged to subscribers who added the channel onto their existing cable service. Dolan later presented his idea to management at Time-Life, who, despite the potential benefit to the company's cable assets, were initially hesitant to consider the "Green Channel" proposal. 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, who saw cable as a threat to their viability. Attempts to launch pay television services had been done on an experimental basis in the United States dating to 1951 with little to no success, muzzled by campaigns backed by movie theater chains and commercial broadcasters to assuage television viewers to the supposed threat of pay television to the movie industry and free-to-air television access, limited user interest, and FCC restrictions on the types of programming that could be offered to subscription services. 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 Communications—now consisting of Sterling Manhattan; its Long Island-based sister system, Sterling Nassau Cable Television; production firm Allegro Films; and direct-to-cable programming firm Television Presentations Inc.—informed the FCC that it planned to operate a cable-originated pay television service. Because Sterling's New York City Council franchise grant specifically required FCC approval for that purpose, Time/Sterling filed an FCC request to authorize pay television operations. Sterling indicated that a subscription television operation would also help Sterling Manhattan fund its fledgling local origination channel, which had incurred $1 million in start-up debt on top of annual company operating losses of $250,000. On September 10, 1971, the FCC gave preemptive authorization to Time-Life and Sterling Manhattan Cable to begin a pay television operation. 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, Time-Life sent out a direct-mail research brochure to residents in six U.S. cities. An overwhelming majority of those surveyed opposed the idea of paying for a subscription television service, with only 1.2% favoring the concept and expressing interest in being a paying 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. A subsequent test conducted by Time-Life to respondents in Allentown, Pennsylvania had salesmen present the pay channel concept to residents by offering them free service for the first month and a refundable installation fee; half of all interviewed residents had expressed interest in purchasing the conceptual service with the offered incentives. During the planning stages, film distributors initially expressed reluctance to license their movies to the Sterling project 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, since the channel would air films without edits for objectionable content, cable operators also wanted to know what movies would be shown on the service to avoid potential advertiser and FCC indecency liabilities. Sterling 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 the service directly to their customers.
Time/Sterling soon proposed for the "Sterling Cable Network" to be the name of the new service. Discussions to change the service's name took place during a later meeting of Dolan and the executive staff he hired for the project, who 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 a memorandum and research brochures about the new service; management intended to come up with a permanent name as development continued, however, "Home Box Office" name would ultimately be kept as its permanent name.
Multiple obstacles had to be overcome to get the service on the air. A New York City Council provision applying to the company's franchise agreement that prohibited the telecast of theatrical feature films over pay television franchises. To circumvent this, rather than launch HBO over Sterling Manhattan, Dolan chose to scout another city with two competing cable franchises to serve as its inaugural distributing system. Originally, he settled on debuting Home Box Office on a Teleservice Cable system in Allentown. However, management found out that Allentown and surrounding areas fell within the Philadelphia 76ers's television blackout radius, which the team enforced to protect ticket sales. Since HBO was planning to carry regular-season and playoff games from the National Basketball Association, any 76ers games that the service aired would have been prohibited from being shown within Allentown. Time-Life subsequently agreed to an offer by Teleservice president John Walson to launch HBO on the company's Wilkes-Barre system, fed from an AT&T microwave link at the Pan Am Building in New York. In August 1972, the National Association of Theater Owners attempted unsuccessfully to block Sterling's application to build three community antenna relay facilities it planned to use to transmit HBO, over concerns that pay cable service would compete unfairly with movie theaters by using revenue from cable systems to "siphon" content and, by association, audiences from theatres.
Launch and expansion as a regional service (1972–1975)Home Box Office launched at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time on November 8, 1972. The service's inaugural program and event telecast, a National Hockey League game between the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks from Madison Square Garden, was transmitted that evening over channel 21—its original assigned channel on the Teleservice system—to its initial base of 365 subscribers in Wilkes-Barre. The first movie presentation shown on the service aired immediately after the sports event: the 1971 film Sometimes a Great Notion, starring Paul Newman and Henry Fonda.
Initially airing nightly on an open-ended schedule dependent on the length of the evening's programs, Home Box Office's programming initially consisted solely of theatrical films—including four or five recent titles per month—and event programming. Each evening's schedule was arranged to present either a double feature, or a combination of either a sports or special event and a theatrical movie, often bridged by a short film or other interstitial content.
As part of their subscription, subscribers received Home Box Office: Your Monthly Entertainment Guide. The digest size program guide—which would also be distributed to guest rooms of HBO's hotel clients starting in 1978—provided programming highlights and complete daily listings for the month; until the May 1980 issue, it also featured "HBO Soundtrack", an occasional column outlining HBO's upcoming programming and answering common programming questions. The HBO Guide ceased print publication in December 2008; a PDF-formatted online program guide, borrowing from the print version's format, began publishing in January 2002, and was made available for download through the websites of HBO and Cinemax, and the Home Box Office Inc. lodging website.
HBO's launch came with very little fanfare in the press; other than print advertisements promoting the launch in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, the service's debut lacked coverage from local or national media outlets. The city administrator of Wilkes-Barre declined an offer to attend the launch ceremony, while Time Inc. vice president J. Richard Munro became stranded in traffic on the George Washington Bridge en route from Manhattan, and was not able to arrive in Wilkes-Barre for the ceremony. 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 the Pan Am Building reception dish being used to relay the Home Box Office signal to microwave towers linked to Teleservice's Wilkes-Barre headend. Time-Life representatives sent a technician to repair the antenna in time for the service's launch, completing maintenance about 25 minutes before the initial telecast.
By the end of 1972, the service was received by 1,395 subscribers, all from Teleservice customers in Wilkes-Barre; this number increased to around 4,000 subscribers by February 1973, across Teleservice's Wilkes-Barre, Allentown and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, systems. A third Time-commissioned pay television study by Lieberman Research Inc. released that month, surveying 450 Telecable Wilkes-Barre subscribers, found 79% of all respondents preferred at-home viewing of movies; male respondents expressed strong interest in viewing sports events on pay television, while a mostly female share of respondents had a strong interest in seeing pay television broadcasts of live Broadway musicals and plays.
On February 28, 1973, Sterling Communications announced it would spin-out HBO and associated assets into a new subsidiary, Home Box Office, Inc. Time Inc. received 9% of Sterling's HBO equity and committed a $3-million direct investment in the subsidiary. Sterling also raised Time's equity in the company to 66.4% in exchange for the added HBO stake, through the purchase of additional stock and a converted $6.4-million note obligation. Charles Dolan—who reportedly had major disagreements with Time-Life management on policy issues, claims which the company denied—subsequently resigned as chief executive officer of Sterling Communications and HBO, accepting a $675,000 buyout of a portion of his stock while remaining on the board of directors at both companies in the interim; Dolan used portions of the sale's proceeds to repurchase Time's share of the Sterling Nassau systems and to start the Long Island Cable Community Development Co. as the system's parent company. Gerald M. 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 CEO.
On May 9, 1973, Time sold its controlling share of Sterling to Warner Communications for $20 million; high start-up and operating costs for HBO and other Sterling cable assets were reported to be the cause of the sale. Time intended to convert the 260,000 convertible notes it held in Warner's cable television unit, Warner Cable Communications, into common stock shares totaling up to 20% in interest. Sterling would then maintain oversight of Home Box Office under Warner's purview. The Time-Warner cable deal was terminated on June 27, after both companies failed to reach a definitive sale agreement for HBO and the other Sterling subsidiaries; financial arrangements made between Sterling and the New York City Council as part of their 20-year noncompete franchise agreement were alleged to have curtailed the sale.
On July 19, 1973, Time Inc. reached an agreement to purchase and assume financial liabilities of Sterling Communications for $6.2 million. Time completed its acquisition of Sterling on September 18, 1973, formally dissolving the Sterling holding company and transferring Home Box Office and Sterling Manhattan Cable to its Time-Life Broadcast division. As the acquisition was being completed, HBO was struggling to grow: by October, the service had around 8,000 subscribers across 13 cable systems in Pennsylvania and southern New York State that cumulatively served 110,095 subscribers, and it was suffering from a significant churn rate as subscribers who found the channel's program scheduling repetitive, because of the limited allotment of movies outside of special events, decided to cancel their service. In January 1974, HBO expanded its programming to an average of eight hours per day on weekdays and twelve hours on weekends, depending on that day’s programming lineup. Along with movies and sports, programming at this time had expanded to include concert specials and other music programs, daytime children's programs and various instructional series.
Over the two years following its launch, Home Box Office steadily expanded its regional availability: it became available in New York State for the first time in October 1973, when TelePrompTer's Mount Vernon and Ceracche TV Corp.'s Ithaca systems began offering the service. by January 1974, HBO was available on 14 cable systems in New York State and Pennsylvania; The service's addition to UA-Columbia's Wayne system expanded its regional coverage expanded into New Jersey in June 1974. In order to stem its financial losses, on November 13, 1973, Manhattan Cable—which had announced its intent to offer HBO as an extra-fee subscription offering in July of that year, as a move to stem net losses exceeding $10 million—filed a request to the City of New York to allow operation of a pay channel.
On June 21, 1974, the New York City Board of Estimate passed a resolution that opened access for programmers to lease channel space for subscription television services on Manhattan Cable and TelePrompTer Cable, and cleared Manhattan Cable to offer HBO on a two-year experimental leased basis, in exchange for a 5% fee paid to the city from the system's subscription revenue share. Although the resolution permitted it to offer HBO to its subscribers in Midtown and Lower Manhattan immediately, in order to market the service to potential subscribers, Manhattan Cable Television waited until October 18, 1974, to begin offering HBO on its lineup. Terrestrial transmission of HBO via multipoint distribution service began by the Fall of 1974, available to residents in Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware and to select apartment buildings in Queens.
As Home Box Office's distribution expanded throughout the Northeastern U.S., Time/Sterling established a network of microwave receivers and connecting cables on utility landlines to feed HBO's programming from the New York relay antenna to the service's participating cable systems. 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 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, the remainder of which went to cable systems that offered the service. In November 1974, as it was observing its second anniversary, HBO—then available to cable television and MDS systems in Pennsylvania, New York State, New Jersey and Delaware—had passed the 40,000-subscriber mark. By April 1975, the service had around 100,000 subscribers within its four-state service area.
National expansion, innovation and rise to prominence (1975–1993)In the Fall of 1974, executives from Time Inc. and the Home Box Office unit began conceptualizing ideas to expand HBO into a national pay television service. 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 Time/HBO due to the time and expense involved. HBO's existing microwave network was also expensive and difficult to maintain—especially in winter, when snow and ice storms periodically disrupted service—along with being geographically limiting, as the signal could only be fed to an affiliated cable system if it was along the microwave signal's path.
Seeing it as the only efficient and cost-effective option to expand distribution of Home Box Office to the entire nation, Time settled on using a geostationary communications satellite to transmit HBO directly to cable providers throughout the United States within and 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 holding reservations about the cost of purchasing downlink receiver dishes, which in 1974, were sold for as much as $75,000. Sid Topol, president of cable television equipment manufacturer Scientific Atlanta, met with RCA Americom Communications, Home Box Office and a group of multiple system cable operators to propose having the RCA satellite transmit the HBO signal; Scientific Atlanta would agree to build earth-based satellite relay stations to be set up outside of HBO's Manhattan headquarters and to the service's client cable systems. RCA and HBO agreed to Topol's proposal, and the Time-Life board subsequently approved the satellite transmission plan.
On April 11, 1975, Levin and Time-Life unveiled plans to distribute the HBO signal via satellite to cable systems elsewhere throughout the United States, announcing a $7.5-million agreement with RCA Americom to lease a transponder on the then-under construction Satcom I—which was expected to be launched at the end of 1975—for a five-year term. HBO also signed an agreement to distribute the satellite feed on eight UA-Columbia Cablevision systems in California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Arkansas and Washington State, and have earth station receivers built at their headends to intercept and relay the signal. Now that a more superior transmission method than Home Box Office's existing land-based distribution network was being developed, Time/HBO lined up agreements with various cable system operators—including MSOs like American Television and Communications Corporation, Comcast, Cox Cable Jones Intercable, Heritage Communications and TelePrompTer Cable—to redistribute the satellite feed for system-determined fees of between $6 and $9 per month. HBO also entered into preliminary discusions with Kansas City-based regional cable service Target Network Television, from which a deal did not materialize, to share a transponder, either by dividing their respective airtime to allow HBO broad coverage in the Midwestern United States or dividing transmission by geographic region. Through the Scientific Atlanta contract, UA-Columbia and other cable providers also commissioned earth station dishes through Scientific Atlanta to receive the HBO satellite feed at their headend sites.
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 when it transmitted the "Thrilla in Manila", televised from the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Philippines. Subscribers of UA-Columbia's Fort Pierce and Vero Beach, Florida systems and American Television and Communications's Jackson, Mississippi system joined HBO's existing cable and MDS affiliates in the northeastern United States—some of which were beginning to transition from microwave to satellite delivery of the network—in receiving the heavyweight championship boxing match that saw Muhammad Ali defeat Joe Frazier by technical knockout. HBO temporarily fed its domestic Eastern and Pacific feeds to Westar 1 for the first four months of satellite transmissions; the network's transmissions shifted to Satcom 1 when full-time commercial service began on February 28, 1976. The network's programming expanded with the switch to satellite transmission, operating daily from 1:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. ET/PT in an extension of its weekend schedule to weekdays.
Through the use of satellite, the network 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. One month after the satellite launch, preliminary estimates—taken toward the end of an extended free preview of HBO on all three systems—showed that around 8,250 of approximately 25,630 subscribers between the three charter systems had signed up for the service, and within three months of the satellite uplink, 58,000 customers among six of the eleven cable systems that added HBO—in Jackson, Mississippi; Fort Pierce and Vero Beach, Florida; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Fort Smith, Arkansas; and Laredo, Texas—had signed up for the service, joining 230,000 subscribers in the Northeastern U.S.
HBO estimated that 11 cable systems received its signal via satellite by the end of 1975. HBO achieved coast-to-coast distribution in December 1975, when TelePrompTer added the network to its Seattle–Tacoma, Washington, systems, extending its reach to the West Coast. By 1977, two fledgling cable networks had joined HBO in pioneering satellite delivery for the cable television industry, along with conceiving the concept of modern basic cable service, becoming the first of many to adopt satellite transmission over the coming years: Atlanta-based independent station WTCG-TV, which, through then-owner Ted Turner, became the first independent station to become a national superstation in December 1976; and the upstart CBN Satellite Service, started by Pat Robertson as the first satellite-delivered religious network in April 1977.
By April 1976, Home Box Office reached 386,000 subscribers It passed 500,000 subscribers by August 1976, including 180,000 brought into HBO's base through the July 27 closure of its purchase of pay-television programming services company Telemation Program Services, which Time/HBO acquired to provide content mediation with program distributors and, with initial intent, to use Telemation to develop "customized" programing schedules for HBO's cable affiliates. By the end of 1977, the network had around one million subscribers across 435 cable and MDS systems serving 45 states. Time's third-quarter fiscal report that year disclosed that HBO had turned its first profit in nearly five years of operation.
The network achieved full nationwide distribution in December 1978, having garnered 750 cable affiliates in all 50 U.S. states with around two million subscribers. Programming gradually expanded over time; by January 1979, HBO's programming day lasted between nine and eleven hours per day on weekdays and around 12½ hours on weekends. 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. Subscribership mostly doubled each year into the early 1980s, increasing from around four million subscribers in December 1979 to around 10.4 million subscribers by November 1982.
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, as well as the prior switches of The Movie Channel and Cinemax to 24-hour programming. The first phase of the switchover commenced on September 4, 1981, when HBO adopted a "24-hour" weekend schedule. To facilitate the extra weekend programming, HBO and Modern Talking Pictures, then-owner of the Modern Satellite Network, agreed to trade their respective leased timeslots on Satcom I transponder 22. MSN—which had earlier subleased the bulk of its afternoon hours to Hearst/ABC Video Services for its planned women's channel Daytime—subleased its weekend transponder hours to HBO, in exchange for the latter's unused weekday 10:00 a.m. to noon ET/PT transponder time. Three months later on December 28, 1981, it began offering a full 168-hour weekly schedule, adding programming full-time from 3:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET/PT Monday through Friday.
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, 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 and co-produced with Television South, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Henson Associates, the series 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 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 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, from a planned debut at 7:30 p.m. ET on February 1, 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.
In August 1984, Home Box Office Inc. announced plans to scramble the HBO and Cinemax satellite feeds using the Videocipher II encryption system, becoming the first satellite-delivered television networks to encrypt their signals from unauthorized reception by approximately 1.5 million C-band dish owners as well as by various businesses that used rooftop satellite antennas to freely receive HBO, rather than paying for the network through its affiliated cable systems. Periodic testing of Videocipher II signal scrambling began to be carried out during promotional breaks between programs on HBO's Pacific Time Zone feed on April 15, 1985, and on its Eastern Time Zone feed on April 29. By August 1985, encryption extended to the entirety of the daytime schedule on HBO and Cinemax's respective Eastern and Pacific feeds.
HBO and Cinemax began scrambling their signals full-time on January 15, 1986, requiring customers to pay an extra fee to get one or both networks as their subscribers through cable systems had long done. Widespread complaints were fielded to Home Box Office Inc. and satellite dish retailers from television receive-only dish users who previously could view HBO and Cinemax's programming for at no extra cost on their corresponding transponder signals, particularly because of the cost of Videocipher II set-top descramblers needed to unencrypt the signal. The Satellite Television Industry Association and independent satellite dealers worried about the negative impact on the satellite business from the loss of unencrypted access to HBO and Cinemax and the expansion of full-time signal scrambling to other basic and premium cable networks, as dish sales sharply plummeted and several satellite retailers across the U.S. closed as a result; this spurred SPACE, in March 1986, to lobby for Congressional legislation to protect access to satellite transmissions.
The fallout from the full-time scrambling 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 HBO's Galaxy 1 transponder and intercepting the network's 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. 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.
By May 1987, HBO's programming was received by approximately 15 million subscribers across about 6,700 cable systems nationwide. 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, 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, a Spanish-language audio feed transmitted through, depending on the cable system affiliate, either an auxiliary second audio program channel 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. 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, 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 Showtime/The Movie Channel, Inc. 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, which, remains the parent company of the network. By the start of 1990, HBO served 17.3 million subscribers out of a cumulative 23.7 million subscribers covered between it and sister network Cinemax.
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 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, @Max, OuterMax and 5StarMax.
Rising prominence of original programming (1993–2016)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, Dream On, Tracey Takes On..., Mr. Show with Bob and David and Arliss.
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 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. 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, 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. The series ranked #38 on TV Guides list of the "50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time" in 2002 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, and set a record for the most Primetime Emmy nominations for a television network in a single year 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 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 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*, Band of Brothers, John Adams and The Pacific.
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 and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series 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 including under rankings 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, became the first program to sweep all seven major categories at the Primetime Emmys in the ceremony's history as well as the second program 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 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 ; 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. 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.
AT&T era (2016–present)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 in order to achieve more engagement with subscribers, 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 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 only the second known instance that the network had ever been removed from a pay television provider
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. was reassigned to WarnerMedia Entertainment, placing it under the same umbrella as sister basic cable networks TBS, TNT and TruTV, and under the leadership of former NBC and Showtime executive Bob Greenblatt.
BackgroundIn an effort to reduce subscriber churn by offering extra programming choices to subscribers, on May 8, 1991, Home Box Office Inc. announced plans to launch two additional channels of HBO and Cinemax, becoming the first subscription television services to launch "multiplexed" companion channels, each available at no extra charge to subscribers of one or both networks. On August 1, 1991, through a test launch of the three channels over those systems, TeleCable customers in Overland Park, Kansas, Racine, Wisconsin and suburban Dallas that subscribed to either service began receiving two additional HBO channels and/or a secondary channel of Cinemax. HBO2, HBO3 and Cinemax 2 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.
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 and the perception of too many repeat program showings each month, and increases in overall usage and favorability ratings among home media.
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.
Home Box Office, Inc. began marketing the HBO channel suite and related coastal feeds under the umbrella brand "MultiChannel HBO" in January 1995; the package was rebranded as "HBO The Works," now exclusively classified to the four HBO multiplex channels, in April 1998. Concurrent with the adoption of the "The Works" package brand, two of the channels changed their names and formats: 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.
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, 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 as the "HBO/MAX Pak". HBO Family and HBO Latino 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.
List of channelsDepending 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. Off-the-air maintenance periods of anywhere from a half-hour up to two hours occur at varied overnight/early morning time slots 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.
|Channel||Description and programming|
|The flagship channel; HBO airs first-run and blockbuster 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 on Saturday nights. The main HBO channel mainly airs R-rated films mainly after 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, 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, 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. 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", 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, 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 and family-oriented specials 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 and an unbranded block of one to two movies appropriate for family viewing on Saturdays, 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, 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. HBO Latino is the indirect successor to HBO en Español, 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, 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.|
CinemaxCinemax 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 featurettes. While Cinemax and HBO operate as separate premium services, their respective channel tiers are very frequently sold as a combined package by many multichannel television providers; however, customers have the option of subscribing to HBO and Cinemax's corresponding channel packages individually.
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. 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. 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 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 ; this programming block, originally airing under the "Friday After Dark" banner, 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. 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, consists of the primary feed and six thematic channels: MoreMax ; ActionMax ; ThrillerMax ; MovieMax ; Cinemáx and 5StarMax.
Take 2Take 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 January 1981. Marketed at a family audience and the first attempt at a companion pay service by the corporate HBO entity, 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 and the present-day multiplex channel HBO Family.
On September 21, 1978, Home Box Office Inc. announced it would launch a family-oriented companion "mini-pay" premium service, which would be transmitted via a fourth Satcom I transponder leased to HBO. Originally planned to launch around January 1, Take 2 launched on April 1, 1979; developed at the request of HBO's affiliate cable providers to meet consumer demand for an additional pay television offering, Take 2 was designed to cater to family audiences. The service's 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.
Like HBO's later family programming services, Festival and HBO Family, Take 2 prohibited the broadcast of R-rated theatrical films on its schedule. G- and PG-rated movies shown on the service usually made their Take 2 debut no less than 60 days after their initial telecast on HBO, and were the centerpiece of its "Movie of the Week" premiere presentations. Other programming aired under distinct showcase blocks: "Center Stage", "Family Theater", "Passport" and "Merry-Go-Round". Slow subscriber growth and difficulties leveraging wide cable carriage forced the shutdown of Take 2 on January 31, 1981. HBO had already placed resources to grow its secondary, lower-cost "maxi-pay" service, Cinemax, which launched in August 1980. Cinemax, which experienced success with its mix of recent and older movies in its first four years of operation, replaced Take 2 as an add-on to HBO on many cable systems that carried the latter.
FestivalFestival 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 HDHBO HD 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 ; Comcast Xfinity ; 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., 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 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. 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. 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 DemandHBO On Demand is HBO's companion subscription video-on-demand 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 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. 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.
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 GoHBO Go is a companion TV Everywhere 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 ; Xbox One consoles; Roku devices; and most Samsung Smart TV models. Content available on HBO Go includes theatrically released films and HBO original programming. HBO Go, along with companion service HBO Now and HBO Max, does not provide live simulcasts of the seven linear HBO channels.
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. 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 NowHBO Now is an over-the-top 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 ; and PlayStation consoles ; 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 MaxHBO 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, and through apps for Android tablets, phones and Android TV devices, Apple iOS and Apple TV devices, and Hulu. Notably, it is not currently available on Amazon Fire and Roku devices due to platform-specific disagreements over contractual distribution terms.
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. The service HBO Max would launch in the Spring of 2020. Also announced at that time was that, through Warner Bros.'s ownership of the series, Friends 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, 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.
ProgrammingHBO's programming schedule currently consists largely of theatrically released feature films and adult-oriented original series. In addition, HBO also carries documentary films, sports-centric documentary and magazine series, occasional original made-for-TV movies and specials, original children's programming, and short-form behind-the-scenes specials centered mainly on theatrical films. 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 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.
Beginning with its programming expansion to afternoons in 1974, the primary HBO channel had imposed a longstanding watershed policy prohibiting films assigned with an “R“ rating from being broadcast before 8:00 p.m. ET/PT. The policy—which extended to films shown 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, and, because of 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. The watershed policy was extended to cover TV-MA-rated programs when the TV Parental Guidelines were implemented industry-wide on January 1, 1997., 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, though by 2017, afternoon R-rated movie airings 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, in a marketing strategy to increase subscribership of the channel. Cable providers were originally granted permission to carry HBO on a local origination channel to allow customers to sample the channel for an evening 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 ; HBO currently offers between three and five preview events each year to participating providers.
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, 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 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, 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, and Special, which showcased short films. By 1984, the short segments had largely been reduced to comedic short films 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.
Original programmingSince 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, 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.
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, 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 and from 2016 to 2020 ; children's programs that have aired on HBO have included Sesame Street, Babar, , 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. 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.
Movie libraryOn average, movies occupy between 12 and 16 hours of the daily schedule on HBO and HBO2, and up to 20 hours per day—depending on channel format—on its five thematic multiplex channels. Since June 1992, HBO has offered weekly pay television premieres of recent theatrical and original made-for-cable movies every Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT, with rare airtime variances depending on the scheduling of event presentations that followed. Until May 2006, the premiere presentations were marketed as the "Saturday Night Guarantee" to denote a promise of a new movie being shown each Saturday night on all 52 weeks of the year. Before settling on Saturdays as its anchor premiere night, HBO's prime time film premieres varied in scheduling between Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday, depending on competition from broadcast fare during the traditional network television season. First-run theatrical films debut on average from ten months to one year after the conclusion of their initial theatrical run, and no more than six months after their DVD or digital VOD download release.
HBO and sister channel Cinemax maintain exclusive licensing agreements to first-run and library film content from the following movie studios and related subsidiaries:
- Warner Bros. ;
- * Subsidiaries: Warner Animation Group, New Line Cinema, DC Films, and Castle Rock Entertainment ;
- * Library content: Warner Independent Pictures ;
- 20th Century Studios ;
- * Subsidiaries: 20th Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Studios, Fox Family, Fox 2000 Pictures, New Regency Productions and Searchlight Pictures ;
- * Library content: Fox Atomic and New World Pictures ;
- Universal Pictures ;
- * Subsidiaries: Universal Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation, Working Title Films, Illumination and Focus Features ;
- * Library content: Savoy Pictures and Gramercy Pictures ;
- Summit Entertainment
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. 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. Since 1984, HBO Films has also maintained an exclusive licensing agreement with HBO 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.
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. 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.
BackgroundHBO'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 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. 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 a 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. 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, whereas any decision affecting the future of Fox's contractual agreement with HBO has yet to be formally announced as of 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. The first-run output deal with Summit Entertainment—which initially ran through December 2017, and replaced Showtime 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.
Former first-run contractsBeing 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, 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, Columbia Pictures and Orion Pictures. All three deals were approved under a U.S. Department of Justice review greenlighting the Tri-Star venture in June of that year. 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.
In February 1983, HBO signed an agreement with Silver Screen Partners, 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.
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 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.
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 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.
Other film studios which formerly maintained first-run pay-cable contracts with HBO have included American Film Theatre, Walt Disney Productions, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, ITC Entertainment, New World Pictures, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Hemdale Film Corporation De Laurentiis Entertainment Group Lorimar Motion Pictures, Hemdale Film Corporation and Savoy Pictures.
DocumentariesHBO maintains an in-house documentary production and distribution unit, HBO Documentary Films, which releases between 10 and 15 documentaries per year 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 unit's longtime chief was Sheila Nevins, who initially served as Director of Documentary Programming from 1979 to 1982; upon returning in 1986, she headed HBO's documentary unit under various executive capacities and served as executive producer of most of its documentary productions until she left the network in March 2018. Under Nevins, HBO's documentaries have won 35 News and Documentary Emmy Awards, 42 Peabody Awards, and 26 Academy Awards as well as 31 individual Primetime Emmy Awards honored to Nevins.
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, '. 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.
and former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey at the New York City premiere of Pelosi's HBO documentary about McGreevey, Fall to Grace, in March 2013.
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. 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 monthly one-hour series of topical documentaries covering subjects in a un-sensationalized manner. The America Undercover banner would go on to spawn two regular sub-series: Real Sex and Autopsy. 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 was the first Academy Award nomination for a cable television service in the Best Documentary category. HBO is also noted for its Sports of the 20th Century documentary brand. One of its most notable documentaries from that series was ', 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.
SpecialsAlongside feature-length movies and other types of original programming, HBO has produced original entertainment specials throughout its existence. Five months after its launch, on March 23, 1973, the service 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.
The network has also cultivated a reputation for its stand-up comedy specials, which have helped raise the profile of established comedians and served as the launchpad for emerging comic stars, many of whom have gone on to television and film careers. HBO premieres between five and seven comedy specials per year on average, usually making their initial broadcast in late Saturday prime time, following its weekly movie premiere presentation. Regular comedy specials on HBO 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. Positive viewer response to the special led to the creation of On Location, a monthly anthology series that presented a stand-up comedian's nightclub performance in its entirety and uncut; it premiered on March 20, 1976, with a performance by David Steinberg. HBO's stand-up comedy offerings would eventually expand with the HBO Comedy Hour, which debuted on August 15, 1987 with Martin Mull: Live from North Ridgeville, a variety-comedy special headlined by Mull that featured a mix of on-stage and pre-filmed sketches. Outside of the Townsend specials, the Comedy Hour maintained a virtually identical concept as On Location, taking that program's place as HBO's flagship stand-up series and ultimately resulting in On Locations phase-out after a 13-year run, ending with the premiere of Billy Crystal: Midnight Train to Moscow on October 21, 1989. A spin-off, the HBO Comedy Half-Hour, airing from June 16, 1994 until January 23, 1998, maintained a short-form format in which the special's featured comedian presented their routine—usually recorded live at The Fillmore in San Francisco—only for 30 minutes.
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, 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. The network's library of comedy specials would become part of the initial programming inventories of two comedy-focused basic cable networks started by HBO through Time Inc./Time Warner, The Comedy Channel and Comedy Central.
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 eleven HBO editions of the fundraisers aired between 1986 and 2010 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 Fabulous Bette Midler Show, a stage special featuring Midler performing music and comedy routines, which debuted on June 19, 1976. It served as the linchpin for the creation of Standing Room Only, a monthly series featuring concerts and various stage "spectaculars" taped live in front of an audience; SRO premiered on April 17, 1977. 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, eventually ending on May 24, 1987 ; HBO's concert telecasts also began to focus 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 World Tour, holds the record as HBO's highest-rated special with 3.7 million viewers 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.
Sports programmingHBO broadcasts sports-related magazine and documentary series produced by HBO Sports, an in-house production division managed by WarnerMedia News and Sports 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, Dave Meister, Seth Abraham, and Ross Greenburg.
Professional and tournament sportsAs HBO was being developed, the Time Inc./Sterling Communications partnership elected for a local origination channel operated by Sterling Manhattan Cable Television 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 contracts related to this arrangement dated to May 1969, when Manhattan Cable Television first signed a one-year, $300,000 contract with Madison Square Garden to broadcast 125 sports events held at the arena, and was extended for five additional years in November 1970. On November 1, 1972, one week before HBO formally launched, Madison Square Garden granted Sterling the rights to televise its sporting events to cable television systems outside New York City.
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 and National Hockey League coverage expanded with HBO's transition into a national satellite service, covering non-New York-based teams in both leagues under individual agreements as well as select playoff games. In 1974, the network acquired the rights to broadcast World Football League games from the New York Stars and the Philadelphia Bell; 18 WFL games aired on HBO over the course of two seasons until the league abruptly folded midway through the 1975 season. In March 1973, HBO signed a $1.5-million contract to acquire the regional rights to a selection of American Basketball Association games for five years; 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. The merger of the two professional basketball leagues resulted in an early termination of HBO's ABA contract, which was originally set to expire on July 1, 1977, following the conclusion of the 1975–76 season.
Through 1977, HBO carried other sporting events originating on the Sterling Manhattan/Manhattan Cable sports channel, including World Hockey Association regular season and playoff games; Eastern College Athletic Conference tournaments ; World TeamTennis; international high school basketball invitationals; the National Horse Show; harness racing events from Yonkers Raceway; 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. NCAA Division I college basketball games held at Madison Square Garden and, after becoming a national service, other venues were also carried by the network until the 1978–79 season.
HBO also provided regional coverage of New York Yankees Major League Baseball games for the 1974 season. New York independent station WPIX provided microwave signal pickup assistance to HBO for the telecasts; through its right of first refusal on game selection in its local television contract with the team, covering the team's away games, WPIX preempted planned coverage of four Yankees games that HBO was scheduled to carry that season. HBO's Yankees telecasts spurred a complaint filed in June 1974 by National Association of Broadcasters Special Committee on Pay TV chairman Willard Walbridge, who alleged they violated antisiphoning rules barring pay television services from carrying live sports televised regularly on broadcast stations within a two-year period. HBO representatives contended that regulatory interference over the game broadcasts was prohibited under the First Amendment, and that it offered only weekday games as WPIX held rights to selected Yankees weekend games; it also contended the anti-siphoning rules did not apply as there was not a per-program charge for the broadcasts. In September 1974, citing the games were unavailable on broadcast television, the FCC gave temporary authorization for HBO to carry no more than three of the team's remaining regular season games. From 1973 to 1976, HBO carried Professional Bowlers Association 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, select Amateur Athletic Union tournaments, select LPGA golf tournaments, championship rodeo, the USGF National Gymnastics Championships, Skate Canada International, the Canadian Football League, non-basketball NCAA tournaments including the Men's Gymnastics Championships and the Division I Baseball Championships. Most of the aforementioned events ceased to be part of HBO's sports offerings in 1978, citing much of its sporting events generally had regional appeal, "don't repeat" and were readily abundant on commercial television. 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.
Wimbledon tennisIn July 1975, HBO inaugurated regional coverage of the Wimbledon tennis tournament for its Northeastern U.S. subscribers. Initially, the HBO telecasts of the tournament mainly consisted of replays culled from other video sources ; 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 maintained rights to the quarterfinal, semifinal and final rounds as well as weekend early-round matches.
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. 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 and CNN/SI, which would have their broadcasts produced through the TNT Sports unit, assumed cable rights to the event beginning with the 2000 tournament. 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.
BoxingHBO was long known for its telecasts of boxing matches, including those shown on its flagship sports program, HBO World Championship Boxing. Its first boxing telecast, on January 22, 1973, was "The Sunshine Showdown", the world heavyweight championship bout from Kingston, Jamaica in which George Foreman defeated Joe Frazier in two rounds. Outside of high-profile matches held at exotic locales, most of the boxing events shown during HBO's early existence as a regional service were bouts held at Madison Square Garden; once HBO became a national service, boxing coverage began to regularly cover fights held at The Forum and other arenas. 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. Boxing telecasts aired on various scheduled nights through 1979, and mainly aired thereafter on Fridays; boxing telecasts moved to Saturdays full-time in 1987. Through 1979, HBO also carried various National Golden Gloves competitions, and from 1978 to 1979, carried the National Collegiate Boxing Association championships.
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 ; the first TVKO-produced boxing event was the April 19, 1991 "Battle of the Ages" bout between Evander Holyfield and George Foreman.
HBO expanded its boxing slate on February 3, 1996, when HBO Boxing After Dark premiered with title fights involving junior featherweight and junior bantamweight contenders. The program typically featured fight cards involving well-known contenders, and up-and-coming boxing talents that had previously been featured mainly on basic cable boxing showcases. A second franchise extension, KO Nation, 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 to the sport; former Yo! MTV Raps VJ Ed Lover was the "face" of the show and acted as its ring announcer. 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. HBO's decision to bow out of boxing telecasts was due to factors that included the influx of sports-based streaming services 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 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.
Magazine and documentary seriesSince 1977, 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 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. 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, HBO Sports Magazine, On the Record with Bob Costas and its revamped iteration Costas Now, and Joe Buck Live.
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, 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., Real Sports has received 33 Sports Emmy Awards throughout its run, as well as two Peabody Awards and three Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards. Of note, the show's 2004 Sports Emmy win for "Outstanding Sports Journalism" and 2006 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, 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.
MerchandisingThe 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 to establish HBO Mobile, a pre-smartphone era mobile subscription web service that provided information on HBO's original programming, mobile wallpapers and ringtones voiced by cast members of the channel's series. 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.
BrandingThe 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 ; 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. 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 that incorporated bullseye glyphs within the 'D' and 'O' capitals was developed internally in 2008 as a logotype for HBO Sports, 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 October 16, 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. As the camera pans out of the apartment window, a continuous stop motion flight 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 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, 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.
Most variants of this sequence—except for the feature presentation, "Saturday Night Movie" and "Sunday Night Movie" versions—were discontinued on November 1, 1986. 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 Dvořák's Ninth Symphony—eventually became the network's audio logo in October 1997, with the musical signature being featured in various arrangements 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 October 16, 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. It commenced outside a movie theater facade, 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.
The sequences that followed over the next six years were shorter, minimalist intros from Viewpoint Creative, both based on graphics packages for the HBO channels introduced respectively on April 2, 2011 and in April 2014. 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 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.
Unlike other pay television networks, 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.
- 1972–1975: "This is HBO, the Home Box Office. Premium Subscription Television from Time-Life."
- 1975–1976: "Different and First"
- 1976–1978: "The Great Entertainment Alternative"
- 1978–1979: "The Home Box"
- 1979–1981: "HBO People Don't Miss Out"
- 1981–1983: "Great Movies Are Just the Beginning."
- 1981–1985: "America's Leading Pay TV Network"
- 1983–1985: "There's No Place Like HBO"
- 1985–1988: "Nobody Brings It Home Like HBO"
- 1988–1989: "Watch Us Here on HBO"
- 1988–1991: "The Best Time on TV" ; "The Best Movies"
- 1989–1990: "Let's All Get Together"
- 1989–1990: "Simply The Best"
- 1991–1993: "It Could Only Happen Here"
- 1993–1995: "Just You Wait"
- 1995–1996: "Something Special's On"
- 1996–2009: "It's Not TV. It's HBO."
- 2006–2009: "Get More"
- 2009–2011: "It's More Than You Imagined. It's HBO."
- 2010–2011: "This is HBO."
- 2011–2014: "It's HBO."
- 2014–2017: "So Original"
- 2017–present: "It's What Connects Us"
|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|
|Portugal||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|