HBO was the first television to be broadcast only on cable TV networks. In fact, it all began in 1965, after the visionary Charles Francis Dolan won a franchise that allowed him to build a cable network in Manhattan. The new cable network called Sterling Manhattan Cable by Mr. Dolan was the first urban network in the United States to have cable grounded. Instead of stretching the cable on the telephone poles and using microwave antennas to receive the signals, Sterling buried the cables under the streets of Manhattan, because TV signals were blocked by tall buildings (skyscrapers). Time Life, Inc. Bought the same year, 20% of Dolan's company.
In the early 1970s, looking for new sources of profit, Dolan came up with the idea of creating a "clean" television for which subscribers would pay an additional fee to receive movies that would not be interrupted by commercials as well as sporting events. In order to materialize this project, Dolan hired the young lawyer Gerald Levin, who had experience in contracting films and sports events for television, as vice president of the program department.
Dolan presented his idea of "clean television" to Time-Life management. Although the idea of satellite distribution seemed to be an avant-garde method at the time, it managed to convince Time-Life to support it. Thus, "clean television" became Home Box Office on November 8, 1972. HBO began by using microwaves to distribute cable operators' programs. The first program broadcast on paid television was a match between the New York Rangers / Vancouver Canucks, on the CATV network in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.
Sterling Manhattan Cable was losing money fast because of the small number of subscribers (20,000 in Manhattan). Dolan's media partner, Time Life, Inc., thus gained control of 80 percent of Sterling's company and attempted to stop these operating losses of Sterling Manhattan.
Time-Life renamed Sterling, the network becoming Manhattan Cable Television and gained control of HBO in March 1973. Gerald Levin replaced Dolan as HBO president. In September 1973, Time Life, Inc. Has fully purchased the rights to this service
HBO was broadcast on 14 CATV systems in New York and Pennsylvania, but the subscription waiver rate was exceptionally high. Subscribers tried the service for a few weeks, were bored to watch the same movies and thus gave up the job. HBO was struggling to survive and something had to be done to change the situation.
When HBO arrived in Lawrence, Massachusetts, it allowed subscribers to watch Channel 3 for free. After a month, the program was moved to Channel 6 and coded. The free period proved to be very popular, leading to many subscriptions, the concept being used later in all other locations.
In 1975, HBO became the first satellite television program to broadcast "Thrilla in Manila", the boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. On December 28, 1981, HBO expanded its program schedule to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
(Cinemax was broadcast 24/7 since its inception, and Showtime, and The Movie Channel switched to streaming earlier.) In January 1986, HBO became the first television network to encrypt its signal to prevent unauthorized viewing through the Videocipher II system. Later, HBO was one of the first televisions to broadcast high-definition programs.
HBO was originally part of the Time Inc. When Time merged with Warner Communications in 1989, it became part of Time Warner, which is now the owner.