Inside the Rise of HBO

A Personal History of the Company That Transformed Television


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About the Book

There are two ages in the history of television: before HBO and after HBO. Before the launch of Home Box Office in 1972, the industry had changed little since the birth of broadcast network television in the late 1940s. The arrival of the premium cable channel began a revolution in the business and programming of TV. For the generation that has grown up with the vast array of viewing choices available today, it is almost inconceivable that our ever-expanding media universe began with a few hours of unimpressive programming on a single cable channel. Written by an insider, this is the story of HBO’s reconfiguration of television and the company’s continual reinvention of itself in a competitive and dynamic industry.

About the Author(s)

Bill Mesce, Jr., is an adjunct instructor at several New Jersey universities and colleges, and an author, screenwriter, and playwright. He lives in Linden, New Jersey.

Bibliographic Details

Bill Mesce, Jr.
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 292
Bibliographic Info: 38 photos, appendices, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9786-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2225-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface   1

Introduction   5

Part I: Empire of the Air

1. Towards Felix the Cat   11

2. Baby Steps   15

3. In the Beginning Was the Word: Radio   17

4. The Numbers Racket   22

5. The Wasteland   28

6. Greener Grass   54

Part II: Wired

7. Walson’s Mountain   63

8. The Green Channel   71

9. Into the Skies, Junior Birdmen!   78

Part III: The Company

10. Title Fights: The King of Pay TV   89

11. The Movie Duels   97

12. Fallout   108

13. The Wall   116

14. A Voice All Its Own   127

15. Hard on Old Eyes   152

16. Expanding the Brand   160

17. Golden Age   185

18. Fall and Rise   207

19. Road Signs   224

Appendix A: On the HBO Front Lines: Film Evaluator Youssef Kdiry   239

Appendix B: Putting the Puzzle Together: Scheduler Jeff Kagan   243

Appendix C: HBO Home Entertainment’s Henry McGee   259

Bibliography   267

Index   271

Book Reviews & Awards

Inside the Rise of HBO has much to recommend it: the writing is engaging, the anecdotes are well chosen, and Mesce’s fresh perspective adds a distinguishing personal touch to existing literature in the area of media industry studies. In Mesce, readers will find a lively author with a unique ability to illuminate media history from an insider’s perspective”—Journal of Popular Film and Television; “Mesce brings a very special expertise to laying out an informed and informative history of one of the most influential companies the entertainment industry in general, and the television industry in particular, has ever known. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented…a truly extraordinary corporate history and very highly recommended…a powerful account of the advent, evolution and golden age of paid television. No media collection should be without this thorough detailed history”—Midwest Book Review; “tells the pay network’s story as seen by a member of its communications staff for nearly 30 years”—Communications Booknotes Quarterly.