The origins of HBO began in 1965 when Charles Dolan, a cable pioneer, was awarded the first cable franchise to be built in lower Manhattan, NY. Known as Sterling Manhattan Cable, they came up with the idea of laying wires beneath the ground and forsaking the microwave antennas to send and receive signals, and therefore ending any terrestrial interference created by the tall buildings.
This same year saw Time-Life, Inc. buying up 20% of the company. Although satellite transmission of TV signals were just a possibility at the time, they went ahead with creating what was called the "Green Channel," which in November 8, 1972 would become HBO. The first program shown on the budding pay network was a hockey match up between the NY Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. That night would also see the first movie broadcast on HBO called We Love To Reprint
Because of a minuscule amount of subscribers, Sterling was bought out by Time-Life, Inc. and shut down the Sterling Cable company. They renamed it Manhattan Cable and now had total control of HBO as of September 1973. Viewers were trying out the new service and then canceling once the trial period ended after becoming bored with watching the same movies over and over again. Something needed to be done. They then began showing the previews on one channel and then once that ended would move to another scrambled channel, needing a subscription to view.
Bigger events would follow. On December 13, 1975, "Home Box" as it was now referred to as showed the Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier Boxing match known as "The Thrilla in Manilla." Special events such as this made HBO a big named draw. Starting on December 28, 1981, HBO would begin a 24 hour, 7 days a week schedule. They would also be the first pay channel to encrypt their signal to keep all non paying viewers from watching the channel on a home satellite dish. They would also be one of the first channels to broadcast in High Definition.
HBO has had a slew of legal troubles through the years from people claiming their content was indecent and inappropriate for some viewers. They were also the victims of a satellite pirate named "Captain Midnight," who hijacked the signal during a movie. He was later caught and prosecuted.
In 1991, HBO branched off into new channels with the addition of HBO2 and in 1995 HBO3, now known as HBO Plus and Signature respectively. 1996 would see the addition of HBO Family, 1998 Comedy, 1999 Zone, and in 2000, Latino.
A merger with Warner Bros. and Time-Life has HBO with a good financial backing and can be seen in approximately 1/3 of the US households. Although not regulated by the FCC since they show no commercials, HBO has held to the notion of not showing any R rated programming during the daytime hours. Their other channels however, do allow this programming except for HBO Family, which will only show PG-13 level movies between 6 pm and 6 am.
HBO has emerged past the days of only showing movies and special events to now creating its own first run series, many which would need editing for content if to be shown on regulated TV stations. Series such as The Sopranos
, Six Feet Under
and Sex And The City
have had a huge following and have recently been dominating the Emmy Awards for their work.