The Home Box Office. Originally started in 1965 as "The Green Network", then changed to HBO in 1972. Unlike most cable stations, HBO is a premium station, meaning you have to pay for the right to watch the channel on top of what you pay as far as cable packaging is concerned (though in recent years, most cable and satellite networks have started offering premium TV packages that do
include HBO and its sister stations, including Cinemax). Note the start dates above, too - until about 1980 the concept of "basic cable" didn't exist. There was broadcast TV delivered by cable (one of each of the three major networks plus several independent stations from a wide radius and, at least in the northern states, CBC
) and there was "pay TV".
To entice people to pay for the channel, HBO used to offer free "preview" periods. Depending on your cable provider, HBO will temporarily "unscramble" its channels for the briefest of periods (usually for one week, one weekend, or one month) to draw in customers who will then pony up the money to buy the channel full time. However, HBO does it much more rarely than Showtime
to keep its cache (Dish Network offers one HBO preview weekend every calendar quarter), and usually only on weekends, where its highest-profile series are launched.
HBO's line-up mainly consists of major studio films, shown uncut and commercial free. While the main HBO station focuses on new blockbusters, sister station Cinemax focuses on older films and more arthouse-centric movies. In addition, HBO produced original films, and started producing their own series in the '80s (such as First And Ten
and Dream On
). However, HBO's popularity increased even further in the late 1990s, when two of these series, Sex and the City
and The Sopranos
, really took off. These two series gained a great deal of acclaim, and swept the Emmys for a while. In addition to original programming and movies, HBO is famous for its coverage of boxing matches.
HBO has six sister networks that are almost always included with the main HBO channel to make the network a good value for most of its audience (the collection of networks was once branded as HBO The Works
- HBO 2 Launched in 1991, it airs more films than the main HBO with the same variety, and series usually premiere here on a one-day delay to offer viewers a second (or by the end of the week, 46th) chance to view them. Branded as HBO Plus from 1998 until 2002.
- HBO Family Launched in 1996, the network's competitor to Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel, with movies and children's programming both created for the network and internationally made, and nary a movie rated R in sight.
- HBO Signature Also launched in 1991, a female-targeted network mainly airing "high-art" Hollywood releases, romantic comedies, and art films. Initially branded as HBO 3 from 1991 until 1998.
- HBO Comedy Launched in 1999, it's Exactly What It Says on the Tin; Comedy films and the deep library of HBO comedy specials and series air here. Think Comedy Central if everything that aired was truly uncut and uncensored, didn't have commercials, and was of better quality (ironically HBO used to co-own Comedy Central, as it was a merger of HBO's Comedy Channel and Viacom's HA!, and continued to co-own the network until 2003).
- HBO Zone Also launched in 1999, it's the younger-targeting part of the HBO suite which mainly airs films appealing to 18-35'ers and plenty of science fiction films. HBO has aired original series marathons on this network more lately. Also outside of the few adult shows airing on HBO, the only HBO network which airs soft-core adult content, along with old episodes of Real Sex.
- HBO Latino Launched in 2000, mainly a Spanish-language simulcast of the main HBO channel, but also features Spanish-language movies, series from HBO's Latin American channels and boxing events.
The network also offers the internet service HBO GO
, which basically offers nearly every HBO series, documentary and special created after Sex and the City
premiered and the current movies airing on HBO. Currently only cable and satellite operators that have made agreements to offer HBO GO allow access to the service with their customer login, though a swell of non-cable viewers looking for their Girls
fix have wanted HBO to offer a paid subscription to the service. However, HBO has said they can't do this, and until Internet-served television is the norm and they can make the cable/pay TV model online, looks unlikely to occur.
HBO has also made films for themselves, and are sometimes shown theatrically; they use the name HBO Films for those purposes. They first began original film production in 1983 under the name HBO Premiere Films, then under two names, HBO Pictures and HBO NYC Productions, which were merged together in 2000 to form HBO Films. Other divisions for film production have popped up over the years, and they have had two joint-venture theatrical arms. The first was TriStar Pictures
, which was a joint venture between HBO, Columbia Pictures
and CBS; HBO was the last partner to sell its stake to Columbia in 1987. The second one was Picturehouse, formed in 2005 as a joint venture between them and corporate sibling New Line Cinema (both are owned by media giant Time Warner), it folded in New Line's art house division, Fine Line
Features, and distributed HBO productions theatrically. Time Warner shut down the label in 2008 after New Line was folded into Warner Bros.
They also have a stake in the home video market with HBO Home Entertainment. That division began back in the late 70s as Thorn EMI Video, distributing their early theatrical productions, as well as Thames Television
product and Orion Pictures
films. They then formed a joint venture with HBO in 1985 called Thorn EMI/HBO Video. They then were renamed to HBO/Cannon Video, after the Cannon Group bought EMI's film divsion. At this point, they were also distributing films from Hemdale, as well as Tri-Star releases (due to HBO's stake in the venture). This version of the label didn't last long before Cannon sold it's share to HBO, and they created HBO Video. Orion soon left to form it's own video label. By this point, they were distributing productions not only from themselves, but also from a large amount of other companies, including Miramax, Thames, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, Hemdale, and Samuel Goldwyn, among others. However, in the early 90's, as these companies found other labels or quit the business, they began to concentrate on HBO material. In the mid-90's they also formed a joint venture to release Savoy Pictures' films on video, called HBO-Savoy Video. Nowadays in addition to HBO original movies, they also distribute HBO's series and specials for viewing, although they have since renamed to HBO Home Entertainment.
Series and miniseries broadcast by HBO include:
This network provides examples of: