The Bundesliga Thursday sold the broadcasting rights for four seasons at a record price, in what it said was an important step towards ensuring the “future viability” of German football.

Bidders including pay TV giants Sky and Eurosport as well as public television ZDF stumped up an average total of at least 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion) per season for the right to screen live first and second division league matches domestically and internationally.

The Bundesliga said sales of the domestic television rights alone for the 2017-18 to 2020-21 seasons have reached 4.64 billion euros so far, with the average price per season 85 percent above current contracts.

Two more TV packages in the “highlights” category have not been awarded yet as bids failed to meet expectations, said Christian Seifert, chief of the DFL or Deutsche Fussball Liga.

Some international broadcast rights, such as for the Chinese market, have also not yet been decided.

Sky, known for its advertisement “Every game, every goal” (Alle Spiele, Alle Tore), lost its domestic monopoly to screen matches live although it kept its grip on most weekend games. Eurosport meanwhile won the rights to 43 Bundesliga games, as well as some relegation matches.

US Internet giant Amazon got its foot in the Bundesliga door after it secured the audio rights for netcasts.

“The tender result is an important step towards ensuring the future viability of Germany’s top football. The Bundesliga now has the conditions to continue to be one of the three strongest football leagues in the world in terms of revenues, and to showcase the sport at the highest level,” said Seifert.

– ‘Wish come true’ –

Europe’s top-flight football leagues have been scrambling to play catch up with the English Premier League which auctioned broadcasting rights for live games for a massive 3.3 billion euros per season.

As the TV bonanza is shared out among clubs, English sides are raking it in, and players are voting with their feet.

Several Bundesliga stars have left for the Premier League over the past year.

Kevin de Bruyne’s record transfer to Manchester City earned Wolfsburg a reported 79.8 million euros ($89.3 million) last August.

Son Heung-Min joined Tottenham Hotspur for £22 million (30 million euros, $34 million) from Leverkusen in the same month after Liverpool paid Hoffenheim £29 million for Roberto Firmino last June and Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger signed for Manchester United for £14 million from Bayern Munich in July.

To stand a chance against the lucrative contracts offered by major Premier League sides, the Bundesliga had hoped to obtain at least 1 to 1.5 billion euros in TV rights revenues in this round of auction — a target that it has now surpassed.

In reaction to the Thursday’s announcement, Bayern Munich boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said: “My wish has come true.”

“The top clubs are under great pressure internationally. It is therefore important to get these revenues up. That helps us to survive in the international competition,” he told national news agency DPA.

But Seifert said that now that the media has put their investments in, the clubs themselves must step up to the challenge.

“Now it’s up to the clubs to invest this money sensibly. At the national level, the Bundesliga works very very well. But internationally, a title would certainly help,” said the DFL boss.

The last six European titles have all gone to Spain, he noted. – Agence France-Presse

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