In her academic article “The Family Racket,” Deborah L. Jaramillo argues that the content that has led to the prestigious evaluation of HBO is built on a double standard. Jaramillo says that subscription channels like HBO have an advantage over broadcast stations and basic cable channels due to their relative freedom.
Unlike, say, ABC or TNT, HBO doesn’t have to abide by certain obscenity rules. Jaramillo argues that HBO’s ability to say and show things that are prohibited on other channels supply it with its supposed quality. Jaramillo claims that it’s rather problematic to associate quality with “graphic language, sex, and violence.” She suggests that there is something classist in the idea that HBO subscribers can handle uncensored content. It’s as if people with money to pay for HBO are somehow more “insightful” and better equipped to deal with more sophisticated content.
Another key argument involves the different demands of subscription TV. Unlike broadcast TV stations, channels like HBO don’t have to produce 20–25 episodes per season. Jaramillo writes that the standard HBO season for The Sopranos is 13 episodes. The small seasons allow HBO to devote more money and attention to each episode.
Finally, Jaramillo makes the point that HBO’s slogan—“It’s Not TV, It’s HBO”—is deceptive. In fact, HBO parent’s company, Time Warner, has an interest in “over-the-air television, basic cable, and pay cable.” While HBO makes it look like it's competing against, and separating itself from, other TV channels, it’s actually a part of a company that profits off of a variety of channels.