5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About HBO

On November 8, 1972, the premium cable TV network HBO made its debut with a showing of the movie Sometimes a Great Notion. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about the oldest and longest-running pay television service in American history...

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It Was Originally Called The Green Channel Charles Dolan, who was the founder of Cablevision, believed there was a market to see live sporting events and movies on a premium station. He intended to call it the Green Channel because people would pay money for it.  However, this didn’t entirely resonate with the network’s customer base. After receiving an investment from Time, Inc., Dolan renamed the project Home Box Office to more accurately reflect the services it provided.

You Probably Haven’t Heard Of The First Film That HBO Broadcast Ever heard of "Sometimes a Great Notion"? Yeah, didn’t think so. The 1971 drama starring Paul Newman and Henry Fonda was the first movie the network broadcast. It is about a family of loggers struggling in competition against big companies and was directed by Newman himself. Although the movie didn’t win any awards, actor Richard Jaekel received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Joe Ben Stamper.


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HBO Used Microwaves To Distribute Its Signal Before advanced technology had been developed, HBO distributed its signal using microwaves. But satellite offered a far greater reach at less of an expense, and as the channel hit a ceiling of subscribers, they switched to satellite transmission. On September 30, 1975 Home Box Office became the first television network to continuously deliver its signal via satellite when it transmitted the "Thrilla in Manila", televised from the Philippines. By 1977, the service had over 600,000 households signed up. 

HBO Was Initially On The Air For Just Nine Hours At A Time The network aired programs for just nine hours every day for almost the entire first decade of its existence. It wasn’t until competitor Showtime offered a 24-hour schedule in 1981 that the channel decided to match it.


HBO Was Hacked By An Angry Customer HBO began scrambling its satellite signal in 1986, which angered dish owners who felt that buying the expensive dish equipment entitled them to free programming. Customer John MacDougall was angered by the thought that he had to pay for both a satellite dish and for access to HBO and decided to do something about it. MacDougall, who was a dish dealer at the time, hacked into an HBO presentation and displayed the message “$12.95/month? No Way!” MacDougall was fined $5,000, and given probation. In 2017, HBO was hacked again by an Iranian hacker who stole 1.5 terabytes of data and released the script of one of the unaired episodes of Game of Thrones.