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The Rise and Rise of HBO, Showtime and Cinemax

By on August 15, 2013

Back in the early 1980’s when cable television started expanding into everyone’s homes, channels that showed movies 24 hours a day became very popular.

At that time, the first well known “movie” channel was the aptly named Home Box Office, better known as HBO. With the high demand for movie channels, Showtime and Cinemax soon joined the fray. These channels thrived as customers were happy to pay an extra fee to get one or more of them.

Fast forward to now where the average basic cable offerings include more than 100 channels and the movie offerings of old, found in the midst of these channels, face a lot more competition – provided people have the correct cable TV deals. While they are still able to draw huge audiences with their movie selections, all three have also added original series, both comedy and drama, that have made them the competition for non-movie channels. And by creating quality popular shows, all three show up on lists of the most popular shows on TV.

HBO is the undisputed king of hit cable series over the past decade. They launched shows that were wildly popular while on HBO, and then became popular all over again in syndication on other channels and on video. The list of HBO shows sounds like a who’s who of television – shows no longer being made include Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Band of Brothers, Six Feet Under, Entourage, Deadwood, and Big Love. Still being shown on HBO is the still hugely popular Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Talk around the water cooler would certainly include references to these shows, not to mention the yearly awards for television where you hear these shows referenced over and over. In fact, The Sopranos was the first cable series to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series and Curb Your Enthusiasm has been nominated for a total of 39 PrimeTime Emmy Awards.

For shows running today, HBO currently has the two of the top ten TV shows of 2012 as rated by IMDB users – True Blood comes in at number 10, and the hit show, Game of Thrones comes in at number one. Right in the middle of the list is the ever popular Dexter, another series that won awards in its first season. Another show, Weeds, was an highly popular show created for Showtime that ran for eight seasons.

In 2012, both HBO and Showtime rate highly on the critics’ list as well. Showtime had the third best show according to critics in Homeland. HBO is on the list with Girls, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones.

Showtime is currently developing new series that are pushing the boundaries of television including a highly anticipated documentary series that follows a group of terminally ill people shortly before their deaths. Cinemax has forayed into the original series arena with popular action series including Hunted, Banshee, and Strike Back. And Cinemax caters to the “after dark” crowd with both adult only series, and an ongoing selection of movies.

Still, HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax are still the place to go to find the latest releases, and classic movies, just like they were back in the 1980’s. If you haven’t watched a movie channel in a while, then you’re in for a surprise. With multiple channels under each of them, your options for movies are endless. And you get to watch the movie the way it’s meant to be seen – no commercial interruptions, no censors, and no editing to fit the time allotted.