Streaming platforms have arrived —with the impetus of the pandemic— to sneak into our homes and take some weight off conventional television and movie theaters. How many? Only time will tell. But all media have suffered waves of new competitors that have put them to the test, and Before the disruption caused by OTT platforms, there was, for example, cable TVof which the origin of HBO has a lot to tell.
HBO continues to be a common brand today both in streaming with HBO Max like on cable TValthough the integration that has given birth to the Warner Bros. Discovery group will mean that its brand will be somewhat diluted in the coming years.
But HBO definitely is and will be a recognizable acronym when we talk about television. Although it was not always so.
The origin of Home Box Office, the three words behind the acronym, are found in a small North American town with barely three hundred clients who were unknowingly being part of a pilot test: that people would pay to watch extra content on their TV when the usual thing is that everything was gratuitous. And we will see that, at least at the beginning, it is not that it was an excessively brilliant extra content either.
From there until HBO became a reference channel with both series and The Sopranosboxing evenings and, later, with their own platform, almost six decades have passed that have gone a long way.
The humble origin of HBO
The origin of HBO is the origin of cable television itself. Charles Dolan, who would later be its founder, became interested in cable television as a solution to the problem of signal drops that occurred during storms or, in the case of antennas, which was sometimes complicated in large cities like New York where the skyscrapers caused dark areas where the emissions arrived with limitations.
Dolan founded Sterling Information Services, a cable television system that he obtained the rights to build in New York City’s Lower Manhattan. The TV was, as the name suggests, underground cable, which worked better, but was extremely expensive.
Installing this underground cable system was so expensive that Sterling lost money for the first few years, and Dolan agreed to sell his stake in Sterling to Time-Life to keep the company afloat. Now we will see why this is important. Time-Life was then the book publishing unit of Time Inc, the company that would go on to merge with Warner in 1990 to become Time Warner (now WarnerMedia, part of Warner Bros. Discovery), leading Sterling to change its name by that of Time Warner Cable.
End of business conglomerate turns. Let’s go back to the story.
Trying to figure out how to make the company profitable, Dolan had the idea, while on vacation in 1971, to create a cable television network.
Dolan’s idea, called The Green Channel, consisted of creating a television channel that would license and broadcast movies and sporting events without interrupting with advertising. Does it sound like something?
To start with, D.Olan reached an agreement with the management company of Madison Square Garden to broadcast games that were not on TV. As for the movies, shooting series B was the easiest thing to start with. Less was nothing.
This idea was radical at the time, and Time-Life was initially hesitant to fund it, especially since cable television was still uncharted territory in the early 1970s and under constant scrutiny from other networks, such as NBC, CBS or ABC, who saw the service as a potential threat to free television, but Dolan convinced Time-Life to give it a try and they gave him a $150,000 investment for the development of the network that would become officially known. like Home Box Office.
HBO was born.
Starting with just 300 customers
HBO was first launched on November 8, 1972, with the first program broadcast being an NHL hockey game between the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks taking place at Madison Square Garden, broadcast to 325 subscribers in Wilkes. -Barre a small city located in Pennsylvania which had been reached as an agreement with a local television that already had these subscribers. The match was followed by its first film appearance, the 1971 film Sometimes a Great Notion.
If we think of a great release, this was not. First, because Madison Square Garden placed limitations so that, even if HBO grew, could not broadcast its events to subscribers who were in a radius close to the stadium so as not to harm its ticket sales. And secondly, because the movies didn’t seem to be of any kind of level.
That was not going well at all. So much so that HBO founder Charles Dolan resigned from the company in 1973, giving up full control to Time-Life, which appointed HBO’s chief financial officer, Gerald Levin, as the new president and CEO.
Cable TV… But via satellite
Things weren’t looking good for HBO in the early 1970s, with many people canceling their subscriptions due to HBO’s repetitive programming, although it began to grow and turn a profit in 1975 following Time-Life’s decision to expand the channel’s reach. across the country using satellite transmission, something other cable networks were reluctant to aaadopt but which Gerald Levin saw as the only viable option to expand the reach of HBO.
On September 30, 1975, HBO became the first television network to broadcast regularly through the satellite signal, its first broadcast being the boxing match on the heavyweight championship between Muhammad Ali and Joe Fraziercelebrated in the Philippines and known as Thrilla in Manila. An event that they could only carry out thanks to this technology, and that would mark a before and after for them.
Sign up in hbo max and you will have access to the best series and exclusive movies What TheWire, The Sopranos either Game of Thrones. It includes the entire Warner catalogue, the Cartoon Network classics and the big premieres like Matrix Y dunes.
Cable service delivered by satellite became the norm in the late 1970s, and by 1980 HBO was carried on cable providers across the United States with some 15 million subscribers.
In 1983, HBO began broadcasting its first children’s program. Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rockwhich was so popular that it began airing children’s programming regularly, and aired the first television movie produced exclusively for HBO or any pay television channel The Terry Fox Story.
Things were already going well. In 1988, during the Writers Guild of America strike, there was a huge increase in subscribersbecause the television networks were forced to air reruns, while HBO had a constant inventory of first-run programming.
HBO began to thrive in the 1990s with many popular shows that were artistically superior to those on network television.
That’s where the titles that we all know begin. Among these programs were the horror anthology Tales from the Crypt(1989-1996) or The Larry Sanders Show (1992-1998), a comedy series starring Garry Shandling that follows the ins and outs of the life of a talk show host.
Many attribute the artistic success of these shows to HBO’s freedom to air content that would be risky on a traditionally ad-supported network, which gave the makers of these shows creative freedom.
The Golden Age: From The Sopranos a Game of Thrones
And, then, the land of the series began. The Sopranos (1999-2007) It is considered by many critics as the best television series in history (whoever writes, thinks the same). The beginning of television, a prestigious television that ended up giving rise to programs such as The Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad either House of CardsIt started with The Sopranoswhich was the first HBO series and the first cable show in history to win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama.
HBO in fact then came to honor its slogan more than ever: “It’s not TV, it’s HBO.”
Later, more modern productions would arrive, such as Big Little Lies, Boardwalk Empire, Succession, True Blood, True Detective, Westworld and of course, Game of Thrones.
Starting in 2010, the HBO Go video-on-demand service was launched., which allowed HBO subscribers to watch selected HBO content through the web and its app. Another streaming service called HBO Now allowed non-HBO subscribers to access HBO’s content library for $15 a month. Its first OTT platform properly speaking, detached from the private channel and that in 2020 would change its name to the current HBO Max, which in 2023 will change again as a result of the business union of Warner and Discovery.