John Plunkett,

Corporation's director of content Roly Keating says audience research confirms iTunes-style purchase scheme would be welcomed.

Viewers are "very comfortable" with the BBC's plans to launch an iTunes-style download service which would open up thousands of hours of never-before repeated content, according to a senior corporation executive.

The BBC's director of archive content Roly Keating said he wanted it to be the "norm, not the exception" that BBC shows were available to buy online soon after transmission.

He said more than 90% of BBC programmes are currently unavailable to buy once they are removed from the iPlayer.

He said the plans – dubbed "Project Barcelona" – would also enable the corporation to open up a "far greater volume of archive content" which has long been the corporation's ambition.

"The research we've done with audiences tells us they're very comfortable with the idea of BBC programmes being made available for purchase like this – there's a clear understanding of the difference between viewing something once and keeping it to enjoy in perpetuity," said Keating in a blogpost on the BBC website.

"As Mark Thompson said in his speech, this is not a second licence-fee by stealth or any reduction in the current public service offering from the BBC.

"At the moment, although partners such as iTunes offer a selection of the most popular BBC titles for purchase as downloads, we estimate that more than 90% of what the BBC commissions becomes unavailable for download once it's removed from BBC iPlayer.

"We'd like to change that, and get to a point where it's the norm, not the exception, for shows to be available for digital purchase soon after transmission, with the most comprehensive range of BBC titles being offered via a bespoke online shop.

"We envisage this being a commercial site separate from the licence fee-funded BBC iPlayer, which would of course continue to offer its hugely successful and popular service of recently broadcast BBC programmes to catch up on-demand for free."

BBC director general Mark Thompson confirmed plans for the paid-for download service in a speech to the Royal Television Society on Wednesday.

He said the proposal, which would require the approval of the BBC Trust and is being negotiated with rights holders and programme makers, would allow viewers to "purchase a digital copy of a programme to own and keep [for] a relatively modest charge".

Keating said: "Over time the aim would be to make available not just an expanded range of recent titles, but a far greater volume of archive content as well.

"Barcelona would open up an important additional space for that very broad set of BBC programming that currently isn't being made available by the market, much of it never seen since its original transmission."

He added: "The rights for programmes in Barcelona would be wholly non-exclusive: producers would be free to work with other digital retailers as well, and of course to exploit their programmes in multiple other ways, such as secondary TV channels, subscription services, DVD, video-on-demand, and so on.

"We believe there's public value in that, as well as additional revenues for producers, rights holders and the creative industries."

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly "for publication".

• To get the latest media news to your desktop or mobile, follow MediaGuardian on Twitter and Facebook © Guardian News and Media 2012

(Press still of BBC's popular drama "Downton Abbey" via the BBC)