(Adds Bewkes comments, context about Viacom/Sony programming deal)
By Sam Adams and Lisa Richwine
NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Time Warner Inc and CBS Corp signaled on Wednesday that they were increasingly open to one day making HBO and Showtime available directly to consumers over the Internet without a subscription to a cable television service.
Separate comments by CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes at an investor conference were the latest sign that pressure from rival services such as Netflix Inc could make streaming cable TV delivered via broadband a reality.
Such a move, which could run into fierce resistance from cable and satellite TV operators who are already losing clients to Web-based programming on Netlix, Hulu and Amazon.com Inc , would be a boon for consumers eager to cancel pricy subscriptions.
At the Goldman Sachs Group Inc Communacopia Conference, Moonves was asked if he was thinking about making the Web-based on-demand Showtime Anytime service available to viewers who do not have a cable subscription.
“Is there some time in the future that could happen? Absolutely,” Moonves said. “I don’t know when it is.”
At the same conference, Bewkes said offering HBO subscriptions directly to consumers is “becoming more viable, more interesting.” Bewkes has been dropping hints for more than a year that HBO is studying the option, but has repeatedly said the economics do not make sense, with cable operators providing a large part of the network’s profit.
“The broadband-only opportunity, up until now, wasn’t a digital prize that would be smart to move from one to the other,” Bewkes said on Wednesday. “So now the broadband opportunity is getting quite a bit bigger, and the ability of the plan to deliver something robust is getting stronger.”
Showtime and HBO both currently offer programs to viewers online, but customers have to be subscribers to a cable package and pay extra fees for the premium channels.
Separately on Wednesday, Sony Corp said it had secured the rights to carry 22 Viacom Inc channels, including Comedy Central and MTV, on its planned cloud-based television service. (Reporting by Sam Adams, Lisa Richwine and Liana B. Baker in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli, Marguerita Choy, Christian Plumb and Andre Grenon)