Created in 1975, the original HBO logo was quite elaborate but simple. It brought to mind the idea of an exciting and cozy home cinema that screams “Home Box Office.” This version featured the initials of Home Box Office written in a chunky black font, with the characters O and B overlapping slightly.
The HBO monogram logo features an uppercase bold sans serif font that looks like an ultra-customized variant of the font Avant Garde Gothic. The logo’s black and white color scheme has never changed.
Black represents independence, control, and sophistication, symbolizing the seriousness of plenty of HBO content and that the HBO streaming service should be taken seriously. On the other hand, white provides contrast and delivers a clean basic background for the HBO logo. It represents purity, efficiency, and sophistication.
The HBO logo design is very steady—it has remained timeless for almost half a century. The brand name is the main focus, which is drawn in an original yet minimalistic style.
The HBO Logo Evolution
The American TV network HBO’s logo has undergone three significant changes in its history, reflecting the company’s changing status among its competitors.
1972 – 1975
During the first three years of HBO’s existence, the company defined itself with a static image of its first emblem, a ticket stub, as well as the name of the channel in full—Home Box Office—encircled by a low key marquee light pattern.
1975 – 1980
The HBO logo has essentially had the same appearance since 1975, using a simple logotype with the “O” containing a circle, portraying a camera lens. The 1975 version differs from the previous one in that the “O” overlapped the “B.”
The company’s IDs often had the logo accompanied by three red, blue, and yellow stripes next to or below it. Betty Brugger designed this and the next logo design. At the time, she worked at Time-Life as an art director.
1980 – Present
In 1980, the HBO logo was redesigned again, with the “O” shifted slightly to the right and no longer overlapping the “B” but still touching it at two places. This logo design was at first used alongside the previous design until 1981.
One key reason for this redesign was that the slightly obscured “B” in the previous version made it look like an “E” to many people. Moreover, the logo’s letters were slightly bold, while the gaps around the circle inside the “O” and between letters widened.
The HBO Logo Design Elements
Color: Throughout nearly 50 years of HBO’s history, the company has never abandoned its black and white color scheme.
Font: The HBO monogram logo features a bold uppercase sans serif font that resembles a highly tailored version of the typeface Avant Garde Gothic.
The History of HBO
HBO (Home Box Office) is the biggest pay-TV channel in America, with around 33 million subscribers and around $400 million in earnings. Owned by Time Warner Entertainment Company, HBO programming includes Hollywood movies, self-produced movies, comedy shows, TV dramas, and sports events.
HBO was founded by Time Warner Inc. in 1972. It’s an American cable TV company that’s arguably the best premium cable channel for its combination of innovative, original programming and movies.
As the name Home Box Office suggests, HBO originally focused on uncut and ad-free movies and subscribers paid more for the channel from the get-go. In 1975, HBO became the first US network to air its programming via satellite and hence became America’s first national cable network. Naturally, competitor cable channels were founded, including Viacom-owned Showtime.
HBO launched a second channel called Cinemax in 1980, with the purpose of rivaling Showtime at an affordable price. Having dominated Showtime, HBO was ready to pay top dollar to secure the rights to broadcast feature films produced in studios. In addition, HBO funded films in return for the broadcast rights.
HBO, Columbia Pictures, and CBS Inc. partnered up to establish the Tri-Star Pictures movie studio in 1982, which Columbia Pictures later completely took over. In 1991, Cinemax and HBO each launched a second channel, named Cinemax 2 and HBO 2, respectively.
These channels were the original “multiplexed” cable channels. The original Cinemax and HBO signals were combined with these new channels so they could all be transmitted at once. The number of HBO and Cinemax channels increased, and each service offered multiple ancillary channels.
For example, HBO had ancillary channels like HBO Latino, a channel dedicated to Spanish speakers, and HBO Family, which focused on programming appropriate for children. In 2010, HBO introduced HBO Go, an online streaming service where subscribers could view HBO programming.
HBO started experimenting with the first-ever series format in the 1980s. Some of the series weren’t noteworthy except for their occasional nudity and adult language. Others, including Tanner ’88 (in 1988), discovered the potentially high-quality levels that pay television could achieve. Created by filmmaker Robert Altman and cartoonist Garry Trudeau, Tanner ’88 satirically chronicled a fictional presidential candidate in documentary format.
HBO became more involved in creating its own programs from the beginning of the 1990s. It produced a variety of adult-oriented pioneering dramatic series that audiences and critics fell in love with for portraying the greatest characters of the best novels in expansive detail.
The most influential HBO series was The Sopranos (between 1999 and 2007), which followed Mafia chief Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), who dealt with rival bosses, his own family, and panic attacks.
While the crime drama series The Wire (2002 to 2008) wasn’t as admired as The Sopranos, critics lauded it for chronicling the rot in American institutions like the press and public education. The series creator David Simon was often favorably likened to UK novelist Charles Dickens for making Baltimore, Maryland, stand out in his work as Dickens did London.
Other HBO dramas of note included 6 Feet Under (between 2001 and 2005), the tale of a broken family-run mortuary enterprise; Deadwood (between 2004 and 2006), a coarse western; True Blood (between 2008 and 2014), the tale of a little Louisiana town full of vampires, shape-shifters, and werewolves; as well as Game of Thrones (between 2011 and 2019), inspired by a collection of fantasy books authored by American George R.R. Martin.
These dramas inspired other TV dramas with lengthy, complex narratives like Lost (between 2004 and 2010) and Mad Men (between 2007 and 2015).
In addition, HBO significantly inspired TV comedy. Since 1975, numerous leading stand-up comics have made appearances on HBO specials. HBO launched the Comedy Channel in 1989, which merged with Viacom’s rival channel HA! two years later to form the Comedy Central. The Comedy Central hosted Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show (between 1999 and 2015), South Park (from 1997 to date), and Chappelle’s Show (between 2003 and 2006).
HBO produced The Larry Sanders Show (between 1999 and 2015), starring comic Garry Shandling, and popularized late-night talk shows like Tanner ’88 did political campaigns to substantial critical approval. Sex & the City (between 1998 and 2004), a romantic adult comedy following four New York women friends, was one of HBO’s most popular shows and inspired two feature films.
Also, HBO’s original programming included miniseries like Band of Brothers in 2011, which was about a group of US soldiers during the Second World War, and Jon Adams in 2008, which was about the second president of the US.
HBO also produces numerous documentaries and movies and airs special events programs, such as music concerts and boxing matches.
Key History Timelines
- Time Inc. establishes Home Box Office, aka HBO, to offer cable TV service.
- The company is headquartered in New York.
- HBO became the first US TV network to air its satellite programs and became the first-ever national cable TV channel.
- HBO broadcasts the heavyweight title boxing match between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, dubbed “Thrilla in Manila” from Araneta Coliseum in Manila, Philippines.
- HBO makes its first profit.
- HBO launches Cinemax, an all-film channel that becomes the second most popular channel after HBO. HBO continues to diversify its business throughout the 1980s.
- HBO subscribers reach 9.8 million, almost half of all pay-television subscribers. From sales of $440 million, HBO earns a $100 million profit.
- In March, Warner Communications and Time Inc. announced plans to merge for $14.9 billion in stock and cash.
- In November, HBO launched The Comedy Channel, which starts with 6 million subscribers, though industry critics felt it’d need 20 million subscribers to survive on advertising.
- The Comedy Central is an all-comedy cable channel featuring videos excerpted from comedic feature films, TV series, and stand-up comedy sets.
- Despite attempts to block the Warner Communications-Timer Inc. merger, it was finalized in January, resulting in the merged entity being called Time Warner.
- Cinemax and HBO establish their second channels, known as Cinemax 2 and HBO 2, respectively.
- HBO begins business operations in Eastern Europe, with HBO Hungary offering Hungarian, European, and American movies to subscribers.
- HBO receives 90 Emmy nominations, making it the first cable network to receive more nominations than a broadcast network.
- HBO won 19 Emmy Awards, defeating three out of four major broadcast networks.
- HBO launches HBO Go, an online streaming service that allows subscribers to view HBO programming.
- In October, AT&T revealed a $108.7 billion offer to take over Time Warner, including Time Warner’s assumed debt.
- In February, Time Warner stakeholders approved the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner.
- In November, the Department of Justice sued Time Warner and AT&T in a bid to block their proposed merger, citing antitrust issues surrounding the transactions.
- The merger between AT&T and Time Warner was finalized in June, with AT&T fully owning Time Warner. Time Warner was renamed WarnerMedia.
- In October, under the stewardship of WarnerMedia, HBO announced it’s launching a new OTT channel combining HBO programming with content from several other WarnerMedia subsidiaries, including Warner Bros.
- In February, Richard Plepler resigned as Home Box Office Inc. CEO, after a cumulative 27-year stint at HBO and 12 years as boss of both Home Box Office Inc. and HBO.
Wrapping Up the History of HBO
HBO (Home Box Office) is a US pay-TV network owned by Time Warner Inc. Keeping a general entertainment plan, programming featured on HBO mainly consists of original TV programs and theatrically released films, as well documentaries, made-for-cable movies, concert specials, occasional comedy, and intermittent interstitial programs (comprising making-of documentaries and short films).
HBO is the longest and oldest continuously running subscription TV service in the US and paved the way for modern-day pay TV when launched in November 1972. It became the first TV service to be transmitted directly and distributed to independent cable TV systems.
HBO ultimately became the world’s first TV network to start transmitting through satellite—expanding the budding regional pay service, initially available to multipoint distribution service and cable providers in the southern New England and northern Mid-Atlantic into a national TV network in 1975. And along with sister channel Cinemax, HBO was one of the first two US pay-TV services to offer free multiplexed channels in 1991.
HBO runs 24/7 linear multiplex channels in addition to a traditional video-on-demand subscription platform called HBO on Demand. HBO content is the focus of HBO Max, an extensive streaming platform run separately from HBO. Still, under the management of Home Box Office Inc., HBO Max also has original programming created exclusively for streaming platforms and content from other properties in the WarnerMedia family.
The entire Home Box Office operation—based at the corporate headquarters of WarnerMedia in the West Side district of Manhattan, New York—is one of the most valuable assets in the WarnerMedia family (alongside Warner Bros Entertainment), earning operating revenue of almost $2 billion yearly as of 2017.