“As a representation of a television switching on at the beginning of the programme and off at the end, the HBO logo evokes the impression of an appointment to view with each programme, creating a separate and special place in which its programmes are encountered.”
– Catherine Johnson, “Tele-Branding in TVIII”
I never consciously realized this, but the opening HBO logo definitely does have an effect on viewing the show that follows. It’s like the MGM lion or the Disney castle – a familiar noise that indicates that it’s time to focus on the screen. Even with changing viewing practices (downloaded shows on laptops, recorded shows from DVRs, etc.), this sort of introduction still influences the expectations of the audience.
Johnson points out that the “snow” and “warming up” that accompanies the logo’s appearance also works to evoke earlier periods of broadcasting, distinguishing HBO as something different and “established.” As their brand slogan states, “It’s Not TV: It’s HBO.”
It’s also worthwhile to think of content warnings as working within this sort of set-up. What is written as cautionary has always seemed to me more of a promise – “This program contains violence and coarse language. Viewer discretion is advised” – and creates an environment of heightened awareness about the content of what will follow. Both logos and warnings give the impression that one can’t simply drop in halfway through the episode, that it is an experience bookended by pertinent viewer information.