Comcast has acquired rights from cable network owners to offer their channels nationwide, according to people familiar with the negotiations, giving the biggest U.S. cable operator a backup plan if rival online-TV services catch on with consumers.

The rights allow Comcast to sell video service for the first time outside its regional territories, which include Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information.

In most cases, Comcast acquired the rights through “most favored nation” clauses in contracts, which let the company sell channels in the same places as new online distributors. Since Comcast doesn’t sell traditional cable-TV service in markets like New York and Los Angeles, the rights mean the company could presumably offer a package of channels as an online-streaming service in those cities.

In some scenarios, Comcast asked for the rights as part of broader carriage negotiations with programmers. For now at least, Comcast has no plans to offer a video service nationwide because it still sees opportunity to gain cable-TV subscribers in its footprint, according to a person close to the company.

“When you really try to evaluate the business model, we have not seen one that really gives us confidence that this is a real priority for us,” Matt Strauss, Comcast’s executive vice president for video services, said at a conference in November. “There is significantly more upside and profitability in going deeper and deeper into our base first versus following a video-only offering OTT,” he said, using the industry term for nationwide online video.