HBO

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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 or Starz to keep its cache, 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.

Series and miniseries broadcast by HBO include:

Tropes used in HBO include:
  • Catch Phrase: "It's not television, it's HBO." - The network's tongue-in-cheek method of defending itself against incredulous critics who rail that the series premises would never make it on basic cable or broadcast.
  • Growing the Beard: With The Sopranos, was the start of the network's shift into true recongition.
  • Insistent Terminology: The "It's not TV, it's HBO" promos.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: HBO was insanely popular amongst movie tape traders in the 1980s and 1990s, as far as fans taping movies off the network.
    • HBO's shows are also insanely popular on BitTorrent sites, due to the vast number of non-subscriber fans of its original shows who want to follow them without having to wait a year or so for the DVD sets (which are often twice the price of normal network DVD sets).
  • Leitmotif: Part of the score to the "HBO In Space" opener (mentioned below) has become a musical logo for the network, and it even shows up at least thrice in the music of the feature presentation opener used from 1999 until 2011, and shows up once in the simpler 2011 open.
  • The Rival: Several. During the 1980s and 1990s, HBO's main competition was the LA-based "Z Channel" and Showtime. In the 2000s, FX, previously filled with FOX-owned reruns, became its main rival, as far as copying HBO's formula and producing a line-up of shows (The Shield, Nip Tuck, Rescue Me, and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) that rivaled HBO (and was on basic cable).
  • Seasonal Rot: The channel has been producing more shows that have gotten less critical recongition (if still well-received) then their earlier efforts, and the channel has criticized for having more shows that focus on the sex & gore rather than the storytelling.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: HBO in Space, the ident to new movies they'd play in the 80s and 90s where the camera goes up into space and the HBO logo spins. Nothing got people more pumped up to watch a movie than this introducing it.

"This intro makes me feel like I am about to witness the most important event in the universe." -sterpinator

    • Inverted with HBO's brief and simple original programming ident. A Theme Music Power On, but not Up.
      • The 1984 movie Flashpoint (the first of HBO's several ventures into films for the big screen) is the only chance to date to experience this in cinemas, as a shortened version appears at the beginning.
    • For those curious about the making of the HBO In Space opening, there's a ten minute making of special on YouTube.
      • The set took three months to build.
      • It took 14 hours to film each take of the 20 second sequence.
      • The HBO "Spaceship" was made from brass and was chrome plated - it was not CGI.
      • The lights swooping around the "O" were not CGI nor animated.
      • The people sitting down to watch HBO at the beginning were filmed last.