The BBC is to premiere a string of shows on its online iPlayer service before they are shown on television.

The corporation has approved plans to show up to 40 hours of new programmes on the popular catch-up service over 12 months, with some of them later being shown on regular channels.

A BBC spokesman said: “During 2012, the BBC brought selected online-only programmes to audiences. These included BBC Three comedy pilots, a Doctor Who web series called Pond Life [which starred Karen Gillan, pictured] and curated archive programmes for BBC Four.

“We will build on this in 2013, and make a small number of additional programmes exclusively available to our audiences via BBC iPlayer.”

Millions of people regularly use the iPlayer, which has received a huge boost with the rise in popularity of smartphones and tablet computers.

There were around 3.3 million requests for Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony last year – making it the most popular show on the iPlayer in 2011. Other popular shows included episodes of Sherlock and Doctor Who which were requested more than two million times.