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HBO Channels Biography

HBO (Home Box Office) is an American premium cable and satellite television network that is owned by Time Warner, under the operating subsidiary Home Box Office Inc. 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 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 the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and much of Europe), 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 Lower Manhattan in New York.[7] The new system, which Dolan called "Sterling Manhattan Cable", became the first urban underground cable-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. In the same year Time-Life, Inc. purchased 20 percent of Dolan's company.[8][9]

Dolan presented his "The Green Channel" idea to Time-Life management, and though satellite distribution seemed only a distant possibility at the time, he persuaded Time Life to back him. Later, on November 8, 1972, "The Green Channel" became "Home Box Office (HBO)". HBO began using a network of microwave relay towers to distribute its programming.[10][11][12] The first program and film broadcast on HBO, Sometimes a Great Notion (1971), starred Paul Newman and Henry Fonda and was transmitted to 325 customers at a Cable television (CATV) system in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (Wilkes-Barre's downtown Public Square features a plaque commemorating this event). HBO broadcast its first sports-event immediately afterwards: an NHL hockey game from Madison Square Garden featuring the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks.[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, 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 and by 1977 was joined by 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), laying the foundation for satellite delivery in the modern cable television industry.[10][16]

HBO had broadcast only for nine hours each day (from 3 p.m. to midnight ET) during its first nine years of existence. The network then began broadcasting a 24-hour weekend schedule (until midnight ET on Sunday nights) in September 1981, the 24-hour schedule expanded to weekdays on three months later on December 28, 1981 (Cinemax maintained a 24-hour schedule from its launch, though Showtime and The Movie Channel went 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 has since become known among its subscribers for airing softcore adult films and series during the late night hours,[citation needed] though it began producing original action series in August 2011.

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 kids' show broadcast on the channel: Fraggle Rock; HBO continued to air various original programs aimed at children until 2001, when such programs were almost completely moved over to HBO Family.[17] 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-TV networks. In January 1986, HBO also became the first satellite 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 TV 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,[18] a separate premium channel that featured classic and recent hit movies, along with specials and documentaries from HBO. Distinctively, Festival's programmers aimed to provide family-friendly fare, with R-rated movies being edited for broadcast on the channel and only high-quality series, specials and movies were allowed to be broadcast; the cost for subscribing to the channel was less than that of HBO and Cinemax. Festival suffered from the fact that only a few cable providers carried the channel, it shut down in late 1988.[19] In 1988, HBO's userbase expanded greatly on account of the Writers Guild of America going on strike; HBO had new programming while standard television channels could only broadcast reruns. In 1989, HBO compared programming against pay-television network Showtime, with the slogan "Nobody Brings it Home Like HBO", using the Tina Turner single "The Best".[20]

On January 2, 1989, HBO launched "Selecciones en Español de HBO y Cinemax" (translated as "Spanish Selections from HBO and Cinemax"), which was created as 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, 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 was renamed HBO en Español on September 27, 1993.[21]

Taking advantage of HBO as Time-Life, the neighboring company of Warner Communications, led by Steve Ross, the CEO, took over Time Inc, and made the company merge with Warner Communications.

When Time Inc. merged with Warner Communications in 1989, HBO became part of Time Warner (which as of 2013, continues to serve as 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.[22] 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.[23] 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 three Cinemax channels WMax, @Max, OuterMax and 5StarMax in 2001. In 1993, HBO became the world's first digitally transmitted television service.[24]

Rising prominence of original programming (1993–present)

During the 1990s, HBO began experiencing increasing success with its original programming with shows 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.[25] The series ranked #38 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, the only HBO comedy to make the list.[26] It was also included in Time's list of the "100 Best TV Shows of All Time."[27] The Larry Sanders Show was also ranked by various critics and fans as one of the best TV comedies of the 1990s.[28] 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, has earned the channel numerous Emmy awards.[29] One aspect as to the perceived higher quality of these shows is due to 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.[30] 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.[31] In 2002, HBO debuted The Wire, which although did not surpass The Sopranos in viewership success, it did however match its critical acclaim over its five-season run[citation needed] 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 the 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.

    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 will only air R-rated films 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,[32] 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,[33] 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 a.m. to noon Eastern and Pacific Time, with films and some original specials filling out the remainder of the channel's daily schedule.[34][35] 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 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),[36] 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.[37]
    HBO Zone: Launched on May 6, 1999,[32] this channel airs movies and HBO original programming aimed at the 18- to 35-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.[38] 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.[39]

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.[33] The HBO multiplex channels became collectively known as "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 rebranding and change in format 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).[37] 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 under the name "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".[40]

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 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 provides high definition simulcast feeds of all seven of its multiplex channels in the 1080i resolution format. 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.[30]
HBO on Demand

HBO on Demand is the subscription video-on-demand counterpart to 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.[31] It offers movies, original series and specials previously seen on the network.[41] 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 customers' 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.[42]

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 includes HBO original programming, movies, comedy specials, documentaries, sports, and late night adult programming.[43] It is available to HBO subscribers of Verizon FIOS,[44] AT&T U-verse, Google TV,[45] Cox Communications, Comcast, Time Warner Cable,[46] DirecTV,[47] Dish Network,[48] Suddenlink Communications,[49] and Charter Communications.[50] The HBO GO iPad, iPhone, and Android app launched on April 29, 2011.[51] The app was downloaded over one million times in its first week,[52] and had over three million downloads by the end of June 2011.[53] 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.[54][55] 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 was an HBO subscriber, 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 stand alone subscription basis like some channels are offered on Roku.[56][57] 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.[58] In June 2012, the Android app became available through the Amazon Appstore, and can be downloaded on the Amazon Kindle Fire.

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