The Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins won’t compete on the ice again until the Fall, but the two teams will square off away from the rink in a battle over television territory rights. The Blue Jackets are hoping to reconfigure the cable TV rights in several Ohio counties and increase/adjust the team’s overall presence within the state.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, some Blue Jackets fans in Ohio are considered to be in “Penguins territory” and as a result are unable to see Blue Jackets games on Fox Sports Ohio. NHL Center Ice doesn’t provide any relief as the Blue Jackets games are blacked out.
The two teams have tweaked the territories several times over the last decade, but now they’re revisiting the topic again as the Blue Jackets are eager to grow their presence in the state. The issue lies in the fact that the Penguins aren’t interested in shrinking their current television footprint.
Via the Columbus Dispatch:
The Penguins aren’t simply going to cede their ground to the Blue Jackets, and it’s unlikely the NHL will step in and force it. (The Penguins face a similar turf war in central Pennsylvania, where their territory rights meet that of the Philadelphia Flyers.) Instead, sources said, the Blue Jackets and Penguins will trade areas in a way both clubs can live with.
The Blue Jackets likely want a bigger imprint around Cleveland and its suburbs. It’s now imperative, from the Blue Jackets’ perspective, that more people in the Cleveland area can watch their games.
This is a tricky situation for both teams. The Blue Jackets need to grow their brand within Ohio and the Penguins need to retain their current audience and market share. It’s doubtful everyone will get what they want during these negotiations, but the two clubs should be able to find some middle ground.