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Home Box Office

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Home Box Office

This article is about the American pay television channel. For HBO in other countries, see HBO (international). For other uses, see HBO (disambiguation).
Home Box Office
Launched November 8, 1972 (1972-11-08)
Owned by Home Box Office Inc.
(Subsidiary of Time-Life, 1972–1990;
Subsidiary of Time Warner, 1990–present)
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
480i (SDTV/16:9 letterbox)
Slogan It's HBO.
Country United States
Language English
Spanish (HBO Latino only and via SAP audio track; some films may be broadcast in their native language and subtitled into English)
Broadcast area Nationwide
Headquarters New York City, New York
Formerly called The Green Channel (proposed name)
Sister channel(s) Cinemax
Timeshift service HBO East, HBO West,
HBO2 East, HBO2 West,
HBO Comedy East, HBO Comedy West,
HBO Family East, HBO Family West,
HBO Latino East, HBO Latino West,
HBO Signature East, HBO Signature West,
HBO Zone East, HBO Zone West

DirecTV HBO:
East: 501 (HD/SD)
West: 504 (HD/SD)
East: 502 (HD/SD)
West: 505 (HD/SD)
HBO Signature:
503 (HD/SD)
HBO Comedy: 506 (HD)
HBO Family:
East: 507 (HD/SD)
West: 508 (SD)
HBO Zone: 509 (HD)
HBO On Demand:
Dish Network HBO:
East: 300 (HD/SD)
West: 303 (HD/SD)
East: 301 (HD/SD)
West: 304 (HD/SD)
HBO Signature:
302 (HD/SD)
HBO Family:
305 (HD/SD)
HBO Comedy:
307 (HD/SD)
HBO Zone: 308 (HD/SD)
Available on all cable systems Check local listings for channels
Verizon FIOS 400–413 (SD)
899–913 (HD)
AT&T U-verse 802–812 (SD)
1802–1812 (HD)

HBO (Home Box Office) is an American premium cable and satellite television network that is owned by Home Box Office Inc., an operating subsidiary of Time Warner. HBO's programming consists primarily of theatrically released motion pictures and original television series, along with made-for-cable movies and documentaries, boxing matches and occasional stand-up comedy and concert specials.


As of September 2012, HBO's programming reaches approximately 30 million pay television subscribers in the United States,[1] making it the second largest premium channel in the United States (Encore's programming reaches 35.1 million pay subscribers as of March 2013).[2] In addition to its U.S. subscriber base, HBO also broadcasts in at least 151 countries covering approximately 114 million subscribers worldwide.[3]

HBO subscribers generally pay for an extra tier of service even before paying for the channel itself (though HBO often prices all of its channels together in a single package). However, U.S. federal law requires that cable providers allow a person to get just basic cable (which includes local broadcast stations and public, educational, and government access channels) and HBO, without subscribing to expanded service.[4][5] Cable providers can require the use of a converter box – usually digital – in order to receive HBO.

Many HBO programs have been syndicated to other networks and broadcast stations (usually after some editing), and a number of HBO-produced series and films have been released on DVD. Since HBO's more successful series (most notably shows such as Sex and the City, The Sopranos, The Wire, Entourage, Six Feet Under, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones and True Blood) air on over-the-air broadcasters in other countries (such as in Canada, Australia and much of Europe – including the United Kingdom), HBO programming has the potential of exposure 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 been broadcast 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.[6]


Development and launch

In 1965, Charles Dolan, who had already done pioneering work in the commercial use of cables, won a franchise to build a cable system in New York City's Lower Manhattan section.[7] The new system, which Dolan called "Sterling Manhattan Cable", became the first urban underground cable television system in the United States. Rather than stringing cable on telephone poles or using microwave antennas to receive the signals, Sterling laid underground cable beneath the streets of Manhattan – because the multitude of tall buildings blocked television signals. That same year, Time-Life, Inc. purchased 20 percent of Dolan's company.[8][9]

Dolan presented his idea for "The Green Channel" to Time-Life management, and though satellite distribution seemed only a distant possibility at the time, he persuaded Time-Life to back him. "The Green Channel" later became "Home Box Office". HBO began using a network of microwave relay towers to distribute its programming.[10][11][12] HBO launched on November 8, 1972. The first program and film broadcast on HBO, the 1971 movie Sometimes a Great Notion, starring Paul Newman and Henry Fonda, was transmitted to 325 Service Electric cable television subscribers in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (Wilkes-Barre's downtown Public Square features a plaque commemorating this event). HBO broadcast its first sports event immediately after the film: an NHL hockey game featuring the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks from Madison Square Garden.[11][13]

Sterling Manhattan Cable lost money because the company had only a small subscriber base of 20,000 customers in Manhattan. Dolan's media partner, Time-Life, Inc., gained 80 percent control of Sterling and decided to pull the plug on the Sterling Manhattan operation. Time-Life dropped the "Sterling" name and the company became "Manhattan Cable Television" under Time-Life control in March 1973.[7] Gerald Levin replaced Dolan as HBO's president and chief executive officer.[14] In September 1973, Time-Life, Inc. completed its acquisition of the pay service. Due to HBO's initial limited area of availability, coupled with a significant subscriber churn rate, HBO's future looked dim until the Time-Life board in 1974 approved plans for HBO to beginning transmitting via satellite.[14]

National expansion, innovation and rise to prominence (1975–1993)

On September 30, 1975, HBO became the first television network to continuously deliver its signal via satellite when it broadcast the "Thrilla in Manila" boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.[10][15] HBO switched its domestic satellite transmissions from Westar 1 to Satcom 1 in February 1976. By 1977, Ted Turner's Atlanta superstation WTCG-TV (soon to become WTBS) and Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (later to become the present-day ABC Family) had joined it, pioneering satellite delivery for the cable television industry.[10][16]

HBO broadcast for only nine hours each day, from 3 p.m. to midnight ET, during its first nine years of existence. The network began broadcasting a 24-hour weekend schedule, until midnight ET on Sunday nights, in September 1981; the 24-hour schedule expanded to weekdays three months later on December 28, 1981 (Cinemax maintained a 24-hour schedule from its launch in 1980, though Showtime and The Movie Channel switched to a 24-hour schedule earlier). On August 1, 1980, HBO launched a companion network, Cinemax, a movie-based pay service created as HBO's answer to The Movie Channel; in its early years, Cinemax carried music specials and some limited original programming such as Second City Television and Max Headroom in addition to movies, but the network subsequently become known among its subscribers for airing softcore adult films and series during the late night hours, though it began producing original action series in August 2011.[17]

In 1983, HBO's first original movie and the first made-for-pay-TV movie The Terry Fox Story premiered. That year also saw the premiere of the first children's program broadcast on the channel: Fraggle Rock. HBO continued to air various original programs aimed at children until 2001, when these programs almost completely moved over to HBO Family.[18]

HBO became involved in several legal suits during the 1980s. These involved cable systems and legal statutes imposed by state and city laws that would have censored some programming on HBO and other pay television networks. In January 1986, HBO became the first satellite-delivered network to encrypt its signal from unauthorized viewing by way of the Videocipher II System. Four months later, HBO became a victim of broadcast signal intrusion when satellite television dealer John R. MacDougall, a man calling himself "Captain Midnight", intercepted the network's signal during a movie presentation of The Falcon and the Snowman. The Federal Communications Commission subsequently prosecuted MacDougall.

In 1987, HBO launched Festival,[19] a separate premium channel that featured classic and recent hit movies, along with specials and documentaries from HBO. Distinctively, Festival was programmed to provide family-friendly fare, editing R-rated movies for broadcast on the channel and allowing only high-quality series, specials and movies on its schedule; the cost for subscribing to the channel was less than that for HBO and Cinemax. Festival suffered due to a limited number of cable providers that carried the channel; it shut down in late 1988.[20]

In 1988, HBO's subscriber base expanded greatly as a result of the Writers Guild of America strike that year. HBO had new programming, while the broadcast networks could only air reruns of their shows. In 1989, HBO compared programming against rival pay television network Showtime, with the slogan "Simply the Best", using the Tina Turner single "The Best".[21]

On January 2, 1989, HBO launched Selecciones en Español de HBO y Cinemax ("Spanish Selections from HBO and Cinemax") – an alternate Spanish-language feed of HBO and Cinemax. The service originally only ran Spanish audio simulcasts of live boxing matches televised by HBO (except for others, that were already broadcast in Spanish on networks such as Galavisión), dubbed versions of recent feature film releases from HBO's movie suppliers and first-run Spanish-language movies (mostly from Mexico, Argentina and Spain). Selecciones en Español became HBO en Español on September 27, 1993.[22]

Taking advantage of HBO, Warner Communications merged with HBO parent Time Inc. in 1989, creating Time Warner, which as of 2013, remains the parent company of the network (coincidentally, Warner Communications had created rival The Movie Channel – which has been owned by CBS Corporation since 2006 – in the late 1970s before Viacom, which purchased a 50% stake in The Movie Channel in 1983, bought Warner's remaining half-ownership of that network in 1985[23]).

In 1991, HBO and Cinemax became the first premium services to offer multiplexed channels to cable customers with the launch of HBO2 and Cinemax 2 on three cable systems in Wisconsin, Kansas and Texas.[24] The move proved successful, eventually resulting in HBO and Cinemax starting up additional multiplex channels of both services – starting with the 1995 launch of HBO Signature (as HBO3) and concluding with the launch of four Cinemax channels in 2001: WMax (now MovieMax), @Max (now MaxLatino), OuterMax and 5StarMax. In 1993, HBO became the world's first digitally transmitted television service.[25]

Rising prominence of original programming (1993–present)

During the 1990s, HBO began experiencing increasing success with its original series programming such as Tales from the Crypt, Dream On, Tracey Takes On..., Mr. Show and Arliss. One such program, The Larry Sanders Show, arguably became HBO's flagship series during that decade and although it was not commercially as successful as shows on the Big Three networks and Fox, the show did enjoy a cult status, critical acclaim and received nominations and wins for many major awards.[26] The series ranked #38 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, becoming the only HBO comedy to make the list.[27] It was also included in Time's list of the "100 Best TV Shows of All Time."[28] The Larry Sanders Show was also ranked by various critics and fans as one of the best TV comedies of the 1990s.[29] Other shows which subsequently aired on HBO (such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Extras and Entourage) have used traits from the show.

The original programs that HBO has developed since the early 1990s, have earned the channel numerous Emmy Award nominations and wins.[30] One aspect as to the perceived higher quality of these shows is due to both 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 explicit content to air, such as graphic violence, sexual situations and profanity.

Beginning the 1997 launch of its first one-hour dramatic narrative series Oz, HBO started a trend that became commonplace with premium cable providers. Although critically acclaimed, it was not until The Sopranos premiered in 1999, that the network achieved both critical mass and Emmy success. The Sopranos received 111 Emmy nominations during its six-season run, resulting in 21 wins, two of them for Best Drama. In 1999, HBO became the first U.S. cable channel to broadcast a high-definition simulcast channel.[31] In July 2001, HBO launched HBO on Demand, the first premium subscription video-on-demand enhancement in the United States, to Time Warner Cable subscribers in Columbia, South Carolina.[32] In 2002, HBO debuted The Wire, which although not surpassing The Sopranos in viewership success, did however match its critical acclaim over its five-season run and further cemented HBO's reputation as being a network that produced quality programming.


List of channels

Depending on the service provider, HBO provides up to thirteen multiplex channels – seven 24-hour multiplex channels, all of which are simulcast in both standard definition and high definition – as well as a subscription video-on-demand service (HBO On Demand).

HBO broadcasts its primary and multiplex channels on both Eastern and Pacific Time Zone schedules. The respective coastal feeds of each channel are usually packaged together (though most cable providers only offer the east and west coast feeds of the main HBO channel, as well as HBO2 in some cases), resulting in the difference in local airtimes for a particular movie or program between two geographic locations being three hours at most. The premium film service Cinemax, which is also owned by Time Warner, operates as a separate service from HBO – although HBO is very frequently sold together in a package with Cinemax, subscribers to one do not necessarily have to subscribe to the other.

  • HBO: The flagship service; HBO airs popular feature films, first-run films, boxing events and sports specials, original made-for-cable movies, original series, comedy specials and documentaries; the channel also typically debuts new movies – with feature films debuting on HBO within a lag of between eight months to one year on average from their initial theatrical release – on Saturday nights (usually around 8 p.m. ET). The main HBO channel mainly airs R-rated films only after 8 p.m. ET/PT, but does air PG-13 rated films and certain TV-MA rated programs during the daytime hours.
  • HBO2: A secondary channel that features more movies, series, specials and original movies. Unlike the main HBO channel, HBO2 does allow R-rated films to air during the daytime hours. Launched in 1991, the channel was renamed "HBO Plus" in 1998, before reverting to the "HBO2" name in 2002. In Brazil and Latin America, a local version of HBO2 repeats all the movies that original HBO channel plays, and HBO Plus functions as a separate channel.
  • HBO Comedy: Launched on May 6, 1999,[33] this channel features comedic films, as well as rebroadcasts of HBO original comedy series and stand-up specials; HBO Comedy airs R-rated films during the day, but only broadcasts adult comedy specials during the nighttime hours.
  • HBO Family: Launched in December 1996,[34] HBO Family features movies and series aimed at a younger audience, as well as feature films for the whole family. It airs a block of series aimed at preschoolers called "Jam" each morning from 6 to 11 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, with films and family-oriented original specials filling out the remainder of the channel's daily schedule.[35][36] All films broadcast on the channel are G, PG or PG-13 rated (or the equivalent TV-G, TV-PG or TV-14), and no R-rated films or TV-MA rated programs are broadcast on HBO Family. Children's programs formerly ran on the main HBO channel in the form of a daily morning block, with specials airing during the late afternoon/early evening hours, these programs migrated entirely to HBO Family by the early 2000s.
  • HBO Latino: Launched on October 31, 2000 (although originally slated to debut on September 18 of that year),[37] HBO Latino is a channel aimed at Hispanic and Latino American audiences that largely serves as a Spanish language simulcast of the primary HBO channel, with the exception of some limited program substitutions and different network promotions featured in-between programs (HBO and its other multiplex channels also utilize the second audio program function on many TV sets, and cable and satellite receivers to provide alternate Spanish language audio tracks of most programs). The channel's programming features HBO original productions, Spanish and Portuguese series from HBO Latin America, dubbed versions of Hollywood blockbusters, Spanish-language films and boxing events (including the original boxing series Boxeo De Oro).
  • HBO Signature: This channel features high quality films, HBO original series and specials. Launched in 1991, the channel was originally known as "HBO 3" until October 1998, when the format changed completely from the similarities to HBO and HBO2 to movies, shows and specials targeted at a female audience.[38]
  • HBO Zone: Launched on May 6, 1999,[33] this channel airs movies and HBO original programming aimed at the 18- to 34-year-old demographic. It is also the only HBO channel that broadcasts adult-oriented programming at night, featuring softcore pornographic movies similar to those seen on sister network Cinemax's Max After Dark block.


In 1991, HBO and Cinemax became the first premium services to offer multiplexed services to cable customers as companions to the main network, offering multiplex services of HBO and Cinemax to three systems operated by TeleCable in Overland Park, Kansas, Racine, Wisconsin and the Dallas suburbs of Richardson and Plano, Texas.[39] The first two multiplex channels – HBO2 and HBO3 – launched as part of this test by the TeleCable systems. The following year, research from ACNielsen revealed that multiplex delivery of HBO and Cinemax had a positive impact on subscriber usage and attitudes, including the retention of pay cable subscriptions by its subscribers.[40]

The HBO multiplex would later expand with the launch of HBO Family in December 1996, focusing on family-oriented feature films and television series aimed at younger children.[34] The HBO multiplex channels became collectively known under the name "HBO The Works" in April 1998, coinciding with the name change of HBO2 as HBO Plus (the name change would ultimately be reversed in 2002), and the rebranding and format change of HBO3 as HBO Signature (a network aimed at women). In May 1999, two more channels launched: HBO Comedy (featuring comedic films and series, along with stand-up comedy specials) and HBO Zone (a network aimed at young adults).[38] Just over a year later in October 2000, HBO Latino debuted as a Spanish language channel featuring a mix of dubbed simulcasts of the main HBO channel's programming and Spanish programs exclusive to the channel.

The HBO multiplex continued to be collectively branded as "HBO The Works" until 2004, while the Cinemax channels became known as "MultiMax" at the same time as the HBO multiplex package's naming. Individually, the HBO multiplex has no "official" marketed name as of 2013, although HBO and Cinemax's respective multiplex packages are referred to collectively as the "HBO/MAX Pak".[41] HBO Family and HBO Latino have the distinction of being the only HBO multiplex channels that have their own websites; all the others are integrated within the main HBO site.

Other services


HBO HD is a high definition simulcast feed of HBO that broadcasts in the 1080i resolution format. In addition to its main channel, HBO also operates high definition simulcast feeds of its six multiplex channels. HBO HD is available on Cox Communications, DirecTV, Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, Dish Network, Comcast, AT&T U-verse, Optimum, Verizon FiOS and several other major cable providers, although few providers offer all seven multiplex channels in HD. The main channel first began broadcasting in high definition on March 6, 1999.[31]

HBO on Demand

HBO on Demand is the subscription video-on-demand service of HBO, which launched on July 1, 2001 on Time Warner Cable's Columbia, South Carolina system as the first subscription VOD service offered by a premium channel in the United States.[32] It offers movies, original series and specials previously seen on the network.[42] The service is provided at no additional cost to HBO subscribers, who already pay a premium fee to cable and satellite providers regularly to have access to the channel. By reducing the frequency in which viewers were unable to find a program they would like to watch, as well as limiting cancellations to the service for the same reason, HBO launched HBO on Demand, allowing access to the channel's programing on their subscribers' times.

The standard definition and high definition versions of the HBO on Demand service are available on most cable and satellite providers, delivered to customers who subscribe to the linear HBO channels at no additional charge. On January 3, 2011, HBO became the first premium channel and the first cable network to offer a 3D-only VOD service as it launched a subscription video on demand service offering select feature films in 3D to Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Verizon FiOS customers who subscribe to the HBO service.[43]


On February 18, 2010, HBO launched HBO GO, a website which features 600 hours of content available for streaming in standard or high definition. Content available on the service includes HBO original programming, movies, comedy specials, documentaries, sports, and late night adult programming.[44] It is available to HBO subscribers of Verizon FIOS,[45] AT&T U-verse, Google TV,[46] Cox Communications, Comcast, Time Warner Cable,[47] DirecTV,[48] Dish Network,[49] Suddenlink Communications,[50] and Charter Communications.[51] The HBO GO iPad, iPhone, and Android app was first released on April 29, 2011.[52] The app was downloaded over one million times in its first week,[53] and had over three million downloads by the end of June 2011.[54] In January 2012, Time Warner Cable finally launched HBO GO after beta testing of the new service was completed.

HBO GO is the successor to HBO on Broadband, originally launched in January 2008 to Time Warner Cable customers in Green Bay and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[55][56] It featured 400 hours of movies and original series that could be downloaded to computers, at no extra charge for HBO subscribers; viewers had to be a digital cable customer who subscribed to HBO, and used their cable company as their internet service provider. Programming included 130 movie titles that rotated monthly and top hits ranging from movies, series and specials.

On October 11, 2011, it was announced that HBO GO would be available through the Roku streaming player, though under the same requirements that a cable or satellite subscription to HBO is required. It is unknown if there are any plans to offer HBO GO on a standalone subscription basis like some channels are offered on Roku.[57][58] As of March 27, 2012, HBO GO is available on Xbox 360 as an app; both HBO GO and Xbox Live Gold subscriptions are required to use the app.[59] In June 2012, the Android app became available through the Amazon Appstore, and can be downloaded on the Amazon Kindle Fire. On June 19, 2013, the service became available through Apple TV.


HBO maintains a long-held policy not to run R-rated films on its primary channel between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET/PT;[60] this policy (which may have once stemmed from HBO's availability on analog cable tiers, while its multiplex channels generally required digital cable or at least scrambling) remains in place as of 2013, despite the existence of the V-chip and other premium services having incorporated R-rated films onto their daytime schedules starting in the mid-1980s. The policy was also applied to all TV-MA rated programs after the TV Parental Guidelines went into effect in January 1997, though the main HBO channel began airing a limited amount of TV-MA rated original series, movies and documentaries that contain some strong profanity and violence, but are largely devoid of nudity and graphic violent or sexual content on weekends before 8 p.m. in 2010.[61] However, HBO does occasionally rebroadcast R-rated films as early as 6 p.m. ET as part of its Sunday rebroadcast of the prior Saturday's premiere movie, depending on the length of the film and the scheduling of any HBO original series that air after the movie. Outside of HBO Family, which does not run any programs with either a TV-MA or R rating,[62] HBO's other multiplex channels will air TV-MA and R-rated programming in 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.

Original series

Since 1977, HBO has produced original programming, which includes dramas and comedies in addition to its slate of theatrical films. Most of these shows are intended for adults, and often feature high amounts of profanity, violence, and nudity that would be much more difficult to get on basic cable or over-the-air broadcast channels, for fear of losing sponsors.

Movie library

As of August 2013, HBO – and sister channel Cinemax – has exclusive first-run movie rights with network sister company Warner Bros. Entertainment (including content from subsidiaries Warner Bros. Animation, New Line Cinema since 2005, and Castle Rock Entertainment),[63] 20th Century Fox since 1979 (including content from subsidiaries 20th Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Studios, New Regency Productions and Fox Searchlight Pictures),[64] Universal Studios since 2003 (including content from subsidiaries Universal Animation Studios, Working Title Films, Illumination Entertainment and Focus Features)[65][66] and DreamWorks since 1996 (excluding films co-produced with Touchstone Pictures; Showtime holds rights to live action co-productions between DreamWorks and Touchstone).[67][68]

The first-run film output agreement with Fox was renewed by HBO for ten years on August 15, 2012 (with a provision allowing the studio to release its films through digital platforms such as iTunes and Amazon during a film's term of license with the channel for the first time)[69] and the Universal output deal was renewed for ten years on January 6, 2013 (with the exception of certain animated films that HBO can offer to pass over to the Netflix streaming service).[70] Since 2008, HBO also has exclusive pay cable rights to its own in-house theatrical films made through HBO Films.

HBO also shows sub-runs – runs of films that have already received broadcast or syndicated television airings – of theatrical films from Paramount Pictures (including content from subsidiary Republic Pictures, both for films released prior to 1998), Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (including content from subsidiaries Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, and formerly co-owned Miramax Films), Sony Pictures Entertainment (including content from subsidiaries Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics, Screen Gems and TriStar Pictures, all for films released prior to 2005), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (including content from subsidiaries United Artists, Orion Pictures and The Samuel Goldwyn Company), and Lions Gate Entertainment (for films released prior to 2004).[71]

Films that HBO has pay cable rights to will usually also run on Cinemax during the period of its term of licensing, although some feature films from the aforementioned studios that the two channels have broadcast rights to will make their premium television debut on HBO several weeks before its premiere on Cinemax and vice versa.

Future licensing agreements

On May 2011, HBO announced a licensing agreement with Summit Entertainment to obtain pay-cable rights to theatrically released films from the studio released between 2013 and 2017; Summit's exclusive licensing deal with Showtime expired in late 2012.[72]

Former first-run contracts

HBO's contract with DreamWorks Animation expired after 2012, at which time Netflix assumed pay-TV rights.[73] HBO relinquished its deal with DreamWorks Pictures' live-action films at the end of 2010, when the distribution rights shifted from Paramount Pictures to Touchstone Pictures (whose films are broadcast by Showtime through a distribution agreement with Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group).[74] During the 1980s, HBO held rights to films from Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures (both of which expired after 2004) and Orion Pictures;[75][76] as of February 2013, rival premium channel Starz has an exclusive deal with Sony.[77] Paramount Pictures' films released between mid-1988 and late-1997 were broadcast on HBO;[78] rival channel Showtime assumed pay television rights between 1998 and 2008.[79][80]

Sports programming

HBO broadcasts a limited amount of sports programming as well as sports-related discussion and documentary series produced by the channel's HBO Sports division; HBO – through its parent holding company Home Box Office Inc. – also operates HBO PPV (formerly TVKO), a pay-per-view distributor of major boxing events.

HBO's first sports broadcast was of a New York Rangers-Vancouver Canucks NHL game, transmitted to a Service Electric cable system in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on November 8, 1972. HBO is commonly known for its boxing matches, including those shown on its flagship sports program HBO World Championship Boxing. In 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. That same year, HBO began airing coverage of Wimbledon, with tournament coverage running through 1999, when it lost the rights to sister network TNT.

In 1973, HBO aired a World Wide Wrestling Federation event from Madison Square Garden, headlined by George Steele facing Pedro Morales. During the mid-1970s, HBO aired several basketball games from the National Basketball Association and American Basketball Association (notably, the last ABA Finals game in 1976, between the New York Nets and the Denver Nuggets) as well as some NHL hockey games. HBO also aired PBA bowling events during the 1970s; Dick Stockton was the play-by-play announcer and Skee Foremsky was the color commentator.[81]

In 1977, HBO premiered the channel's longest-running program and its first sports-related documentary series Inside the NFL, which was cancelled by channel in February 2008 after 30 seasons (the program was later acquired by rival premium channel Showtime, which began airing the series in September 2008). HBO expanded its boxing slate with the launch of Boxing After Dark in 1996, a program which showcases fights from up-and-coming boxing talents.

The network would build upon Inside the NFL with debut of additional sports talk and documentary programs: Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (which debuted in 1998), On the Record with Bob Costas (which debuted in 2001, and was revamped as Costas Now in 2005 until its end in 2009) and Joe Buck Live (which ran for one season in 2009). 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 NFL season.[82]

HBO Sports has been headed by several well-known television executives over the years, including its founder Steve Powell (later head of programming at ESPN), Dave Meister (later head of the Tennis Channel), Seth Abraham (later head of MSG Network) and Ross Greenburg.


Many of HBO's documentary series appear under the America Undercover brand. Among the regular AU features are Real Sex and Autopsy. In 2004, guided by human rights activist Ansar Burney, an HBO team for Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel used a hidden camera to document slavery and torture in secret desert camps where boys under the age of five were trained to race camels, a national sport in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This half-hour investigative report exposed a carefully hidden child slavery ring that bought or kidnapped hundreds of young boys in Pakistan and Bangladesh. These boys were then forced to become camel jockeys in the UAE. The report also questioned the sincerity of U.S. diplomacy in pressuring an ally, the UAE, to comply with its own stated policy of banning the use of children under 15 from camel racing. The documentary won a Sports Emmy Award in 2004 for "Outstanding Sports Journalism" and the 2006 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for outstanding broadcast journalism. It also brought world attention to the plight of child camel jockeys in the Middle East and helped Ansar Burney Trust to convince the governments of Qatar and the UAE to end the use of children in this sport.

HBO is also noted for its Sports of the 20th Century documentary brand. One of its most recent documentaries was Dare to Dream about the U.S. Women's Soccer Team and their effort to make a difference. This documentary featured Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, and Julie Foudy.

In 2006, film director Spike Lee made a four-hour documentary on Hurricane Katrina called When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, which was broken up into two parts. Also in 2006, documentary artist Lauren Greenfield directed a feature-length film about four young women struggling with eating disorders in the Renfrew Clinic in Florida, called Thin. 2008 saw the U.S. television premiere of Baghdad High, a documentary that depicted the lives of four boys attending a high school in Baghdad, Iraq, over the course of one year in the form of a video diary that was filmed by the boys themselves, who were given video cameras for the project.[83]

In November 2008, HBO paid low seven figures for U.S. TV rights to Amy Rice and Alicia Sams's documentary, By the People: The Election of Barack Obama. It covers Obama's 2006 trip to Africa, his presidential primary campaign, the 2008 general election and his inauguration. The documentary received theatrical release in New York City and Los Angeles, and aired on HBO in November 2009.[84]

In November 2012, HBO aired a four-part documentary titled "Witness". Each part of the documentary is devoted to covering photojournalists in four conflict regions: Juarez, Libya, South Sudan, and Rio.[85] On March 28, 2013, the channel premiered the Alexandra Pelosi-directed documentary about former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, Fall to Grace.[86][87] On April 10, 2013, HBO aired 50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus, a documentary about the story of Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, a Jewish couple from Philadelphia who traveled to Nazi Germany in 1939 and, with the help of the B'rith Sholom fraternal organization, saved Jewish children in Vienna from likely death in the Holocaust by finding them new homes in Philadelphia. In April 2013, the new documentary about elephants was showcased titled An Apology to Elephants.

Other ventures

In addition to its linear television channels, HBO has entered into other ventures:

Television channels

The Comedy Channel / Comedy Central

In 1989, HBO created The Comedy Channel, a cable channel that featured stand-up comedy specials and clips from comedic feature films, which launched on November 15 of that year. The channel competed with another startup comedy-oriented cable channel that debuted the following year, Viacom-owned Ha!: The TV Comedy Network, which focused on reruns of older network sitcoms. Both channels suffered from insufficient cable carriage (both Ha! and The Comedy Channel each had fewer than 10 million subscribers), resulting in Viacom and HBO deciding to merge Ha! and The Comedy Channel into a single channel called CTV: The Comedy Network, which debuted on April 1, 1991;[88] The channel subsequently changed its name three months later to Comedy Central due to confusion and potential legal issues with Canada's CTV Television Network. Time Warner/HBO exited the venture with Viacom's $1.23 billion buyout of its 50% stake in Comedy Central in April 2003.[89]



In 1987,[specify] HBO launched Festival,[19] a premium channel that featured classic and recent hit movies, as well as HBO's original specials (known as "Centerstage" featuring stand-up comedy, concert specials and ice skating shows) and documentaries.

Festival had also broadcast collections of feature films featuring a particular movie star (known as "Star Salutes"). The major difference between Festival and HBO was that the channel was programmed as a family-oriented service. Atypical for a premium service, Festival featured edited versions of R-rated movies that were recut in order to fit a PG rating and no lower-quality programs or movies were broadcast on the channel.[90]

The cost of a monthly subscription of the channel was also lower than that of HBO and Cinemax. Festival provided its subscribers with a color 20-page monthly program guide. Like HBO, Festival also ran occasional free preview periods, such as the October 30 to November 2, 1987 preview hosted by Tony Randall. Festival's slogan was Quality Entertainment You Welcome Home.[91] The channel suffered from insufficient cable carriage as only a few providers carried Festival; the channel shut down in 1988.[specify][20]

Television and film production

HBO formed the production company HBO Independent Productions in 1990, which mainly served to produce sitcoms for broadcast television and basic cable (including Martin, Roc and Everybody Loves Raymond). HBO Downtown Productions was formed one year later, producing comedy specials for HBO, as well as program content for Comedy Central.

HBO also operates HBO Films, which was established in 1999 as a reconfiguration and consolidation of two separate movie divisions operated by Home Box Office Inc., HBO NYC Productions and HBO Pictures. HBO also operated another film division called HBO Showcase, which shut down in 1996 and was relaunched as HBO NYC Productions.

HBO also participated in a number of joint ventures in film production:

  • In 1982, HBO entered into a joint venture with Columbia Pictures and CBS Theatrical Films to form Tri-Star Pictures (the hyphen was dropped from the name in 1991). HBO, CBS and Columbia decided to pool resources to split the ever-growing costs of making movies. Tri-Star's first production, The Natural, was released in 1984. CBS sold its ownership stake in the studio in 1985.[92] In April 1987, Tri-Star entered into the television production business with the formation of Tri-Star Television. In December 1987, HBO relinquished its stake in Tri-Star with Columbia Pictures buying its venture shares and merging Columbia and Tri-Star into Columbia Pictures Entertainment. as of 2013, TriStar now operates as a production arm of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
  • In 2005, HBO Films and New Line Cinema formed Picturehouse, a worldwide theatrical distribution company for high-quality independent films. The company shut down in 2008 as part of the consolidation of New Line with its sister studio Warner Bros. Entertainment.


Various products have been marketed that have used the HBO trademark and/or are based around the channel's programming. In 2005, HBO entered an agreement with Cingular Wireless to establish HBO Mobile.[93] Operating as a pay service (as with the channel itself), HBO Mobile features information on HBO's original programming (including episode guides), mobile wallpapers and ringtones voiced by cast members of HBO's series (HBO Mobile also operates a similar service, HBO Family Mobile, which offered full-length episodes of the channel's children's programming). That same year, Mattel and Screenlife released a version of the DVD interactive game Scene It?, featuring trivia relating to HBO's original series.


When the network launched in 1972, HBO's original logo featured the channel's full name "HOME BOX OFFICE" and a ticket stub surrounded by a marquee light design. In 1975, it introduced the original version of its current logo (designed by Bemis Balkind), using an uppercase 'HBO' with a circle inside the 'O', with the logo featuring the 'O' cutting into the 'B'. The logo was modified in 1980 (though it did not completely replace the original version until 1981), with the 'B' and the 'O' now separated but still attached to each other. The simplicity of the logo makes it fairly easy to duplicate, something HBO has taken advantage of many times over the years.

The logo became iconic due to perhaps the network's most famous program opening sequence, nicknamed "HBO in Space", used from October 20, 1982, to April 19, 1997; it was produced by Liberty Studios of New York City in 1981 and debuted on the network later that year.[94] The original full version begins with a window shot of a family (sometimes only a husband and wife) sitting down to watch TV, with their cable box and/or TV tuned to HBO (this scene was replaced by a cloudscape in late 1983). A fly-through over a model cityscape (complete with a movie theater with a marquee reading "HBO Theater" that uses the logo in its name) and then a countryside occurs, before tilting towards a star-filled sky; a starburst (or "stargate effect") then appears, followed by the HBO logo appearing in starship form and rotating into view before colored light beams encircle the side of the "O" that unveil its interior to reveal more encircling light beams streaking counter-clockwise on a silver axis, then followed by the appearance of the text "HBO FEATURE PRESENTATION" or another program type (such as "STANDING ROOM ONLY", "HBO SPECIAL" or "ON LOCATION"), with the word on the bottom underlined. Additional beams sweep across the words and shine, before fading to black with more flashes from the surrounding beams. A medium-length version has the aforementioned cloudscape before the sequence begins. A shortened version of this sequence started with the night sky portion, followed by the HBO starship animation from the longer sequence. Many versions of the intro appear on YouTube, including one posted by HBO's official YouTube channel.[95] The accompanying fanfare, originally composed for Score Productions by Ferdinand Jay Smith III of Jay Advertising, has become a musical signature for HBO, and its arrangement has been modified several times over the years using instruments from horns to piano. Feature presentation and upcoming program bumpers, and network IDs used by the network since 1998, have used modified versions of this theme.

Another well-known HBO program opener, "Neon Lights," began movies airing outside of primetime from December 7, 1986, to the fall of 1998. The sequence, set to a synth and electric guitar theme, begins with a purple HBO logo on a film strip as light rays shoot through it; the blue, green and pink lights shoot through several glowing CG slots until a flash of light hits a field of spheres in varying colors. The spheres zoom out to form a light purple HBO logo overlaid by a cursive magenta "Movie" script against a black background with light purple spheres in rows of three.[96] The "Neon Lights" opener has been used since 1998 on HBO's multiplex channels as an intro to movies during daytime viewing until 2003. From 1997 to 1998, HBO used several feature presentation bumpers featuring the network logo in different situations (such as a fish in water, a celebrity in a limo, a large HBO logo chasing a man and on the rooftop of a building).

From 1998 to April 1, 2011, HBO used a CGI feature presentation bumper sequence designed by Pittard Sullivan. The version that was regularly seen featured a flyover of the ground as several spotlights rapidly turn on. The view suddenly slows, facing a HBO logo-shaped lake, before an 3D animation of the "Feature Presentation" wording appears. The full version, seen only during weekend primetime films (mainly during film premieres on Saturdays), began with the facade of a movie theater's marquee that reads "HBO FEATURE PRESENTATION" in all caps. After a zoom-in to a box office booth, a flyover begins at a country road passing under an "H"-shaped tower; then a snowy mountain road jumping over a cliff, traveling through a "B"-shaped tunnel on the other side; then a desert road reaching an "O"-shaped tanker truck. An urban neighborhood setting is then seen with skyscrapers visible in the background, eventually reaching a road that becomes a bridge upon the city's downtown. The same animation that is seen in the shorter version then plays as usual.[97]

The sequence was replaced on April 2, 2011 by work from Jesse Vartanian, with a much shorter opening sequence on a dark background with faint light auroras and soft orchestral music around the HBO logo and the words "Feature Presentation". The same designer was used to design CGI teaser commercials for HBO's world premiere of the film Avatar. This design was a part of a new graphics package introduced on most of the HBO Multiplex channels on that date. [98]

Unlike other pay television networks (including the multiplex channels of sister channel Cinemax), HBO does not brand its programming with on-screen logo bugs of the main network and each respective multiplex channel – although its multiplex channels do display logo bugs during promotional breaks between programs.[99]

Network slogans


International versions

Main article: HBO (international)

Since 1991, HBO has overseen a number of partnerships that operate HBO-branded programming networks around the world. As HBO was launched in new markets, the brand has been used in several countries. HBO has established channels in various countries worldwide including Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Pakistan, India, Mexico, the Netherlands and Southeast Asia. HBO also licenses its programming to air on certain other broadcast and cable channels outside the United States (such as Sky Atlantic in the United Kingdom), regardless as to whether an international version of HBO exists in the country.

See also


External links

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HBO International

  • (for English speaking Americas)

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