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It’s Not TV: HBO | Leading Blog: A Leadership Blog


It’s Not TV: HBO


MEDIA reporting veterans Felix Gillette and John Koblin trace the history of HBO’s humble launch on November 8, 1972, with “some 375 subscribers,” to the challenges it faces today in an industry they essentially created in It’s Not TV: The Spectacular Rise, Revolution, and Future of HBO.

It is both a cultural history and an engaging organizational story full of drama, industry politics, and changing social mores. Below are just a few excerpts that create food for thought:

❧ Michael Fuchs: If we’re going to establish a character in this business, it’s got to be through original programming.

❧ Michael Fuchs: There’s no modern Dickens. So, I sent a note out and said, “let us be Dickens,” let us look at contemporary society like no one else in the country.

❧ Their mission, in short, was to create quality noise.

❧ The quickest way to go out of business in the internet age, they believed, was to make decisions based on your own business, preferences, political beliefs, desires, and tastes. They vowed to follow the data wherever it took them.

❧ On HBO in the mid-2000s: It just felt like there were a bunch of people who were trying to manage for retirement. Let’s not rock the boat.

❧ 2008: It was a very comfortable company. Everything in the offices is first class. There’s a gym. There’s a cafeteria. There’s an on-site acupuncturist, an on-site tailor, and an on-site masseuse. That creates a certain complacency.

❧ Great television came only from one place. From listening to artists and supporting their instincts and visions zealously. The thing about testing is it tells you about the past, not what the future is. What HBO knew how to do was to find the thing nobody was looking for and turn it into something everybody thought they wanted all along.

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