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HBO, or Home Box Office, is one of the largest premium cable TV networks, second only to Encore. While the network primarily airs movies, it offers plenty of original programming including drama, talk, and sports shows, comedy specials, and boxing matches.

The History of HBO

After launching in 1972, HBO became the first network to deliver continuous broadcasting via satellites, which helped spur the satellite TV revolution in the late 1970s. The network has grown from 20,000 subscribers in 1972 to 30 million today in the United States alone.

Today, the network is owned by Time Warner and shares content with Cinemax, a sister channel.

In 2010, HBO released the HBO GO service, which allows current subscribers to stream any current or past content from their computers or other supported devices. With HBO GO, subscribers can watch new episodes from “Game of Thrones” or watch through every season of “The Sopranos” with the click of a button.

Top HBO Shows

camera filing television programHBO is known for its popular and award-winning shows. While the network offers some comedy and sports programming, dramas form the bulk of HBO’s original programming. Because of the high production costs for many of these shows, most HBO shows feature relatively short 10 to 12 episode seasons.

Game of Thrones

Based on George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy series, “Game of Thrones” is the third most watched HBO series in the network’s 40 year history. Based in the medieval setting of Westeros, each 10 episode season follows multiple characters in various parts of the world.

The series won two Emmys in 2011 including one for Peter Dinklage as the dwarf Tyrion, and it won an impressive six Emmys in 2012. With over 10 million viewers per episode, “Game of Thrones” is set to air the third season premiere in March 2013.

Fans of the books will appreciate the HBO series’ tone, which doesn’t skimp on violence or sex. The third season will cover the first half of “A Storm of Swords,” and each episode is expected to run 5-10 minutes longer than in the second season. The increased episode length will allow the show’s creators to cover more of the characters and events in the third book.

True Blood

When “True Blood” debuted in 2008, it only drew about 1.5 million viewers. By September 2009, that number grew to over 5 million, and ratings have remained steady in the three seasons since.

The show focuses on the exploits of Sookie Stackhouse, the vampires Bill Compton and Eric Northman, and a cast of colorful characters who must deal with public bigotry against supernatural creatures. “True Blood” is a more mature take on vampires with violent and sexual content.

The Newsroom

Created by Aaron Sorkin, the same writer behind “A Few Good Men” and “The Social Network,” “The Newsroom” takes a serious look at the purpose of news media in the United States. Jeff Daniels stars as Will McAvoy, a news anchor who realizes that the news has changed from hard journalism to entertainment.

Following a public outburst during a university Q&A session, the management of the fictional Atlantic Cable News attempts to get Will to back off of his earlier statements. Will has his own ideas, setting him at odds with Leona Lansing, the owner of ACN.

“The Newsroom” will appeal to TV viewers who enjoy the news and U.S. politics. During the first season, each episode focused on real news stories such as the death of Osama bin Laden and the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Boardwalk Empire

The fourth season of “Boardwalk Empire” is expected to begin airing in September 2013. Set in Atlantic City during the 1920s, “Boardwalk Empire” is a crime drama focusing on the bootlegging empire of Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson.

Mark Wahlberg, Martin Scorsese, and Terence Winter have all signed on to produce multiple episodes, so the show fits in thematically with other crime dramas like “The Departed” and “The Sopranos.”


HBO is available with most cable and satellite TV packages. Most providers charge $14.99 for the premium service, which typically includes seven channels: HBO, HBO2, HBO Comedy, HBO Family, HBO Latino, HBO Signature, and HBO Zone. However, some cable providers only offer HBO and HBO2 instead of the complete HBO package.

While there is growing demand for an a la carte HBO package, HBO has denied those rumors as recently as September 2012. TV viewers will still need to subscribe to a cable or satellite TV package to receive HBO programming.

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