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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.
HBO distributed its programming for only nine hours each day, from p.m. Eastern Time, during its first nine years of operation.
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.
Time-Life dropped the "Sterling" name and the company was renamed "Manhattan Cable Television" under Time-Life's control in March 1973. HBO would eventually increase its fortunes within two years: by April 1975, the service had around 100,000 subscribers in Pennsylvania and New York state, and had begun to turn a limited profit.
Time-Life executives realized the problems in trying to expand Home Box Office's distribution footprint using microwave towers because of the time and expense that would be incurred in developing such a vast relay infrastructure, and began looking for cost-efficient methods of transmitting the channel nationally.
Seeing satellite transmission as the only viable option to expand HBO's reach, Gerald Levin allocated $6.5 million to lease transponder space on the Westar 1 satellite for a five-year term. Eastern Time on September 30, 1975, HBO became the first television network to continuously deliver its signal via satellite (as opposed to microwave relay, the industry norm at the time) when it distributed the "Thrilla in Manila" boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier; it was beamed to UA Columbia Cablevision's systems in Fort Pierce and Vero Beach, Florida, and American Television and Communications Corporation's Jackson, Mississippi system, Through the use of satellite, the channel began transmitting separate programming feeds for the Eastern and Pacific Time Zones, allowing the same programs that air first in the eastern half of the United States to air at accordant times in the western part of the country.