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In 1974, they settled on using a geostationary communications satellite to transmit HBO to cable providers throughout the United States.Other television broadcasters at the time were hesitant about uplinking their feeds to satellite due to fears that the satellites may inadvertently shut down or jettison out of their orbit, as well as due to the cost of purchasing downlink receiver dishes, which in 1974, were sold for as much as $75,000.
However, a law imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires that cable providers allow subscribers to get just "limited" basic cable (a base programming tier that includes local, and in some areas, out-of-market broadcast stations and public, educational, and government access channels) and premium services such as HBO, without subscribing to expanded service (Comcast is the only major provider to have purposefully offered the network in such a manner utilizing this law, as it offered a bundled cable/Internet package that included limited basic service and HBO from October 2013 to July 2014, or January of the latter year in some markets).
The network provides seven 24-hour multiplex channels, including HBO Comedy, HBO Latino, HBO Signature, and HBO Family.
It launched the streaming service HBO Now in April 2015 and has over 2 million subscribers in the United States as of February 2017.
Because of the cost of HBO (which is the most expensive of the U. premium services, costing a monthly fee as of 2015 between and depending on the provider), many Americans only view HBO programs through DVDs or in basic cable or broadcast syndication – months or even years after these programs have first aired 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.
In 1965, Charles Dolan – who had already done pioneering work in the commercial use of cables and had developed Teleguide, a closed-circuit tourist information television system distributed to hotels in the New York metropolitan area – won a franchise to build a cable television system in the Lower Manhattan section of New York City.
Cable providers can require the use of a converter box – usually digital – in order to receive HBO.
HBO also provides its content through digital media; the channel maintains HBO Go, a video on demand streaming service available as a website and slate of mobile apps exclusively to existing subscribers of the linear channel suite and a separate, but similar standalone service, HBO Now, which launched in April 2015 as a subscription streaming platform that does not require a subscription to the HBO television service.
The network first adopted a 24-hour schedule on weekends in September 1981, running from p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday nights/early Monday mornings; this round-the-clock schedule was expanded to weekdays three months later on December 28, 1981 (however, HBO was not the first pay television network to maintain an uninterrupted programming schedule as Showtime and The Movie Channel had both switched to 24-hour daily schedules months earlier).
By this time, the full "Home Box Office" name was de-emphasized by the network, in favor of branding solely by the "HBO" initialism (although the full name is still used as the legal corporate name of its parent division under Time Warner, In 1983, HBO premiered its first original movie, The Terry Fox Story, a biopic about the Canadian runner who embarked on a cross-country run across Canada to raise money and awareness for cancer research; the film was also the first movie ever produced for pay television.
Many HBO programs have been syndicated to other networks and broadcast television stations (usually after some editing for running time and/or content that indecency regulations enforced by jurisdictional telecommunications agencies or self-imposed by network Standards and Practices departments may prohibit from airing on broadcast and cable networks), 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 Canada, Australia and much of Europe – including the United Kingdom), HBO's programming has the potential of being exposed to a higher percentage of the population of those countries compared to the United States.
The first program and movie distributed on the channel, the 1971 film Sometimes a Great Notion, starring Paul Newman and Henry Fonda, was transmitted that evening to 325 Service Electric subscribers in Wilkes-Barre (a plaque commemorating this event is located at Public Square in downtown Wilkes-Barre).