The Essential Sopranos Reader

By David Lavery; Douglas L. Howard et al. | Go to book overview

The Sopranos as Tipping Point
in the Second Coming of HBO

Gary R. Edgerton

By the early years of the twenty-first century, HBO was the most talked about, widely celebrated, and profitable network in television. On September 19, 2004, it made TV history by winning a staggering 32 Emmy Awards after receiving a record-setting 124 nominations (Weinraub B11). “This will never happen again,” admitted HBO’s newest chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) Chris Albrecht, who had replaced Jeffrey Bewkes in July 2002 when the latter was promoted to president and CEO of Time Warner because of his accomplishments over the previous seven years at HBO’s helm (Bauder). The Sopranos (1999–2007) also garnered the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series in 2004, the first ever cable-and-satellite program to be recognized this way. The show won the award again in 2007. Furthermore, Home Box Office Inc. posted nearly $1.1 billion in annual profits in both 2005 and 2004 for its parent conglomerate, Time Warner, up from its previous record-setting amounts of $960 million in 2003 and $725 million in 2002 (Dempsey 1; Flint B1; Peterson; Umstead). These figures were the highest annual yields ever earned by any network in the history of television.

After 2004, however, HBO was no longer the beneficiary of the expectations game that it had been a decade earlier. Most industry watchers now assumed that the network would keep producing popular and critically acclaimed programs. Back in the mid- to late 1990s, no one other than HBO insiders expected the network to emerge as the gold standard for original television programming. By 2005, though, TV professionals and critics alike were expecting HBO to create one breakout hit after another. Dozens of original series are tested each year

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