The BBC is launching a new iTunes-style TV download service, which it is calling Project Barcelona, director Mark Thompson announced during last night's speech to the Royal Television Society.
Through the service - which will use a pay model similar to that of Apple's iTunes - viewers will be able to download copies of new and old shows, and downloaded files will remain on computers permanently. Shows will be available for download almost immediately after they air.
In last night's speech, Thompson said:
The idea behind Barcelona is simple. It is that, for as much of our content as possible, in addition to the existing iPlayer window, another download-to-own window would open soon after transmission - so that if you wanted to purchase a digital copy of a programme to own and keep, you could pay what would generally be a relatively modest charge for doing so.
People thought that digital fragmentation would mean the BBC would deliver less value to the public. Actually digital means we can deliver more - another reason why approval for the BBC has risen the further into the digital revolution we go.
It is unknown whether the BBC's £145.50 annual license fee will be affected. Project Barcelona could be a key source of revenue for producers and rights holders, Thompson said.
Thompson's speech was widely anticipated due to the broadcaster's pre-release of his comments on the 2 March cyber-attack, for which the BBC blames Iran .
Shares in Apple briefly climbed above the $600 mark - a first for the company - during US trading Thursday.