Unusually for a cable channel, HBO has kept the same basic logo for most of its existence - but it has gone through at least one major change. HBO's 1970s-era logo had the "O" overlapping the "B", and is accompanied by a three-stripe rainbow. Both of these were phased out by 1982.
This ident is simple - a tumbling model "HBO" keyed over a rostrum shot of the earth.
HBO Feature Movie
In contrast to today's policy of "use one intro for feature films", HBO was using a veritable army of intro sequences for movies. These "HBO Feature Movie" sequences share a similar musical signature and identical end animation, but other than that, they are as different as can be. At least six sequences are known to have been used, although it is not known what criteria - if any - was used as to what intro went with what movie. It is also not known whether all six were introduced together or if these intros were added to over time, as some contain more advanced animation than others(one of them using state of the art wireframe computer animation).
This intro is lighthearted, with dancing concessions and movie-related objects lining the streets - in this way it seems to echo classic movie intermission trailers.
HBO Feature Movie
Feature Movie #2 is somewhat grander than the first, with a more majestic orchestral score and an elaborate HBO movie theatre. All of these contain nice cel animation, with this one taking a more abstract form-up, as if the movie theatre is being drawn in. Again, the same "Feature Movie" animation and fanfare is used at the end.
The holiday ident using the early "overlapping O" logo. The plicky-plicky music would be reused for later HBO holiday idents, using the more refined version.
The Last Laughs of the 70s...
An early example of a cable television staple - the holiday marathons devoted to either a specific show or theme. This is a theme marathon - classic HBO comedy specials from the 1970s.
A short slide ID used for the mid-junction short films - another thing that isn't normally seen on HBO anymore (typically, the trend has been towards shorter junctions and longer promos for shows and movies).
A later HBO ident, used circa 1980-1981, where the logo is formed using rainbow-colored lasers. One of the more interesting HBO idents.
HBO Feature Movie
Feature Movie #3 completely abandons all reality for a very abstract series of spires, bubbles, and television screens accompanied by a synthesized score. Again, we're not sure of the criteria judging what intro goes with what type of movie.
HBO Ratings Bumper
A very verbose warning to parents about the next movie, rated R. Note the disclaimer that HBO "will show this feature only at night". This is actually still HBO policy - to this day, R-rated films and TV-MA programming will air only during primetime on the main channel. (The spinoff channels will air R-rated movies in daytime, save for HBO Family which does not air such content at all)
Standing Room Only
The wonderful, live-action "Standing Room Only" opener for live events. Check out the early HBO cable converter!
HBO Sign Off
HBO did not begin broadcasting 24 hours until 1981. Therefore, it signed off each night with this animation, a subtle message to the audience that it was time to go to bed. Abstract and crude 1970s-era animation abounds in this one.
Note the logo at the end - it's the 1970s "overlapping O" variant, but with the message "HOME BOX OFFICE FROM TIME/LIFE" at the bottom, a reference to its parent company. The TIME/LIFE bit was an effective piece of marketing, since it tied in the newborn HBO with the trusted Time/Life magazine brands.
Gymnastics championships, one of the early types of sports carried on cable. (ESPN was filled with this type of stuff.) This uses the type of music - either custom or stock - that HBO seemed to use in all its promos, bumpers, idents, opens, you name it. Recorded just before signoff.
King of the Gypsies Promo
A movie promo that appears to have been at least partially adapted from the movie trailer, with some comparatively early work from the US voiceover king, Don LaFontaine. Note the early - but primitive - computer generated text.
HBO Weekend Promo
Simple text animation here takes us to and from the movies airing on HBO this weekend. Notice the comparative lack of branding here.
HBO Calendar Promo
A very long promo that we don't have in full, this is a general "this month" on HBO promo with a nice end animation.
HBO Sports- Boxing
Boxing has been an HBO staple for the network's entire existence, and so has Larry Merchant - he's been with the network for years. This is one of many, many fights broadcast from the fabled Madison Square Garden.
Coming Up Next...
Primitive graphics were used for the "Coming Up Next" promos in the late 1970s. Using a simple character generator, the same copy the announcer was reading was displayed on the screen.
Coming Up Next...
Two more examples of the text-heavy "next ons".
A far more attractive neon tube "Next On" ident was used starting around 1980 or so. This cut down on the generated text and looks a lot nicer in the process.
Movies on HBO (Long Promo)
More of the neon tube look. This is one of the long promos spotlighting some of the movies available on HBO that given month. This type of look was used through the logo change and even for some time after the famous starship opens were introduced.
HBO sporting events. Again, an example of the newer, more refined HBO logo being phased in to promos and idents. Includes such iconic HBO programs as Wimbledon coverage and "Inside The NFL".
A revised logo was phased in over 1981 and 1982, first in some promos, then in idents. This "wireframe" ident is a landmark for HBO, and impressive for 1982.
Starship HBO #2
1982 / Recorded 1993
Here's the rarely seen second version of Starship HBO. By 1987, the full version of the Starship open was retired, so it was a pleasant surprise when HBO revived it in 1993. Every ounce of the hard work and enthusiasm that was devoted to this sequence can be seen here. Without the city, the ident is impressive - but with it included, it is a masterpiece.
Starship HBO #3
1982 / Recorded 1993
The third version of the sequence is the most familiar - this is the one that HBO played most often. It bypasses the city entirely and starts right at the starburst effect. This version of the open was also adapted for nearly everything that HBO ran - from movies to specials. These special opens would use special altered cuts of Ferdinand Smith's music. Initially, this was even true for the normal Feature Presentation open, which used a different ending. However, this lasted only a few months.
Next On HBO...
The "steel grate" animations for the "next" and "tonight" bumpers were introduced in 1983, replacing the old tubular look and integrating the refined HBO logo for the first time. This features HBO's traditional bombastic sound. This is the first variation - after "No Place Like HBO" was introduced, that theme music was dubbed in.
Another monthly round-up promo, this time focusing on HBO's original specials. The tubular look was used after the starship and the revised promo styles were introduced, and elements of it - including the roundup promos - stuck around even after the "next" bumpers were replaced. This distinctive graphical style was a hallmark of HBO.
Inside HBO - Premiere Films
"Inside HBO" was a unique feature seen during the junctions, answering common viewer questions such as "How many times do you repeat a program?" The uniqueness comes in the presentation, as the entire spots were typically produced using simple but visually pleasing animation techniques. This one is more promotion than some of the others, plugging HBO's first original movies initiative, "HBO Premiere Films".
HBO Behind The Scenes
Junctions frequently featured short "sneak peeks" at upcoming movies or HBO productions - they came under the banner of "HBO Behind The Scenes". A similar idea is used today with "HBO First Look", though this is treated as its own programme.
No Place Like HBO Promo
A local recording from WPIX New York, this is from the "No Place Like HBO" campaign. By all indications this is the first "big" overall slogan and branding campaign for HBO. It's also atypical of HBO's promotional efforts before or since - HBO rarely ran anything as sugar-coated and schmaltzy as this.
Next on HBO...
A custom-made "next" bumper to coincide with the "No Place Like HBO" campaign. Again, it's atypical of HBO's promotion efforts before or since because of the fact that the slogan is front and center.
Perhaps this is why this bumper style seems to have been short-lived, as two additional bumper styles using the "No Place Like HBO" music were used; a more elaborate "home" style showing people watching HBO (the starship open is seen), and a "dubbed" variant of the previous steel grates.
No Place Like HBO Ident
The end-of-junction idents were also changed to fit the new campaign. Doesn't the old man kicking his slippers off and sitting down scream "HBO"? Didn't think so...
Another monthly round-up promo, this time focusing on HBO's original specials. Same music, but better graphics when compared to the neon tube look used in 1980.
Crystal Gayle in Concert Promo
"Her roots are country. She's got a way with a ballad." A concert event featuring Crystal Gayle airing at the palatable time of 5:05AM Eastern. HBO promos were - as you can see here - a little more branded by now.
Eddie Macon's Run Promo
Kirk Douglas chasing John Schneider through the desert - apparently, as this promo indicates, to settle an old score. The music appears to be a production cue as it's been present in some other movie trailers.
By 1984, this animated sequence was being used for the short films, now renamed "HBO Short Take".
1987 / Recorded 1989
And here is that state-of-the-art open. It's simple compared to the primetime open, but the animation is splendid and the guitar-driven score is classic.
Babar: The Series Promo
HBO's image is that of a network that produces high-end programming for adults. This image is accurate, but doesn't do the network justice. Family-oriented programming has been a staple of HBO since the beginning, and it was the network that brought the US the acclaimed Jim Henson series "Fraggle Rock". This is an example of the HBO-produced "Babar" animated series.
Berenstain Bears Christmas Special Promo
More family programming, this time a Christmas special featuring the Berenstain Bears. As you can see in this example, HBO's promotion style was fairly rigid until the 1990s, with standard end graphics. The time is electronically keyed over the promotion - notice the announcer only refers to the date.
Chunky graphics that scream 1980s. "The Best Time on TV" is one of the many, many HBO slogans used until they settled on "It's Not TV. It's HBO" in 1997.
Next on HBO
Next on, circa 1989. HBO tended to use "character" voiceovers for certain programming during this period - in this example, the announcer here does the Daffy Duck lisp. (Or is it Sylvester's?)
Tonight on HBO
The "Tonight on HBO" bumper, recorded in 1991 but using the 1988 style. It's a nice graphical look, not heavy on the fancy graphics but solidly designed.
Simply The Best
"Simply the Best" was an HBO slogan used often starting around 1989. Obviously, it was intended to refer to the percieved quality of HBO's programmes, and yes, they used the Tina Turner song of the same name. This family version of the annual "end of year" promo uses that song.
Tonight on HBO
The nightly lineup promo style from 1993, introduced 1992. The themes for the bumpers now use world-style music with a very early-90s style pink, blue, and yellow color scheme.
HBO unveiled its first "multiplex" channel in 1991 - HBO2. It was not the first spinoff network from HBO (Cinemax was the first), but it was the first to use the vaunted HBO brand. HBO2 offered a similar programming mix to HBO, but different programming than the mother channel, and was free to all subscribers. HBO would expand upon this idea as the years went on.
In the channel's early years, it used a full presentation style similar to that used on HBO. But by 1993, all junctions utilized this barebones "program grid" structure seen here. No voiceovers or even special graphics were used - any program info would be displayed below the HBO2 logo.
HBO Feature Presentation
The two iconic openers were replaced with this set - the HBO would be integrated into everyday scenes. Here, it's a celebrity, in limo, being pursued by eager photographers. The idea is similar to the ITV Hearts idents introduced around he same time.
This rare early example integrates the "Next on" into the feature open itself. This format did not last that long - in most usage, only the short "Feature Presentation" sting was seen. Listen closely to hear a good example of HBO's new theme music - clearly based on the 1982 starship theme.
HBO Feature Presentation
The feature presentation sequences introduced in the revamp lasted barely a year. Pittard Sullivan created a new sequence for HBO - and for the first time since 1987, there was to be just one open used for theatrical movies. The most common - and very short - sequence featured a camera zooming up to look at an HBO-shaped bay, with a grand fanfare.
However, viewers turning into HBO's weekend premieres were given a treat. What appears to be a short, run-of-the mill CGI open is in fact a very truncated version of a much longer sequence. Here, Pittard Sullivan revisits Liberty's HBO City, but kicks the pace into overdrive and increases the scope. Instead of just traversing the city, suburbs, and country, we travel into the mountains and desert as well.
In 2001, HBO introduced a unique new style based on typography and "streaks" that lasts to this day. This is an example of continuity for what's coming up next.
HBO Original Series Ident
Home Box Office Presentation Idents