Sony's (NYSE: SNE) PS3 is about to become a bigger cornerstone of your home theater system, now that Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX) HBO will offer 11 of its shows as premium downloads through Web-connected PS3 consoles.

Sony is no stranger to serving up digital streams through its video-game box. Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) subscribers have been able to access the service's online streaming catalog at no additional cost since last year. Sony also offers movies and several television shows for digital purchase or rental.

The downloads are priced aggressively, between $0.99 and $2.99 per episode. This is an unproven market, but it still can't be good news for the cable industry.

Or can it?

Time Warner won't be making hit shows including True Blood, Entourage, and Curb Your Enthusiasm available as they air live. HBO offerings won't begin popping up until that particular season becomes available on DVD. Diehard fans of these shows are unlikely to want to wait nearly a year after the original screenings, so this service appears to be geared more toward the casual fan.

Sony is doing the right thing, though. As the priciest of the three consoles, the PS3 has to differentiate itself from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK). The PS3's ability to play back Blu-ray discs is clearly a selling point for couch potatoes, and amassing a large digital library in the PlayStation Network will only help in that regard.

Gamers may seem like a jaded crowd to woo, but the success of Xbox Live has proved that premium downloads do work.

The release window may get in the way of the offering's popularity, but it's just one more reason the days are numbered for cable operators and one-trick pony set-top boxes.

Have you ever paid for a TV show download? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz still likes playing video games, when he can find the time. He owns shares of Netflix and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.