BBC director-general Mark Thompson has confirmed plans for an iTunes-style download service, which will enable consumers to buy TV shows permanently after they have been aired.
Named Project Barcelona, it will be the digital equivalent of watching a show on the BBC then buying it on DVD to view again at a later date.
He explained that in addition to the existing iPlayer window, another download-to-own window will open soon after transmission.
For a moderate fee, users can purchase a digital copy of the programme, with archived content also being made available to download over time.
The service will also be non-exclusive, meaning existing providers will also be able to sell programmes for permanent download.
Thompson said: "Our ambition would ultimately be to let our audiences have access to all of our programmes on this basis and, over time, to load more and more of our archive into the window."
He added that the service could mark a transition into a growing body of outstanding and valuable content, which is always available to enjoy.
Archived content from the BBC is already available to watch on Sky, through the broadcaster's deal with UKTV.