- Associated Press - Thursday, June 9, 2016

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - In a major sign of its rising popularity, the Bundesliga broke new ground with its latest broadcast deal that marked an increase of 85 percent over the previous contract.

The four-season deal starting in 2017 will be worth 4.64 billion euros ($5.26 billion) in total, or 1.16 billion euros ($1.32 billion) on average per season, the league said on Thursday.

For the first time, the Bundesliga broke the billion euros threshold. The previous deal was worth 628 million euros ($712 million) a season to the 36 clubs in the top two divisions. The revenue is distributed among the clubs on an uneven basis, with the bigger, more popular clubs getting more.

Most of the live rights stayed with the pay channel Sky Germany, while Eurosport got 45 matches, including the Friday night game.

“It’s an excellent, I’d even say an outstanding result,” said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of Bayern Munich, the Bundesliga’s biggest and richest club. Rummenigge has long campaigned that the league has to take in more money to stay competitive.

“My wishes have come true. The top clubs are internationally under great pressure. That’s why it’s important that the income grows. It will help us to stay alive in international competitions.”

Bayer Leverkusen chief Michael Schade said the deal was “outstanding, exceeding all our expectations.”

Despite the massive increase, the Bundesliga was still far behind the English Premier League, who has a deal worth 8.3 billion pounds ($9.3 billion) over three years (2016-19), for domestic and international rights.

The Bundesliga hopes to raise more income from international broadcasting rights.

“The result of the tender is an important step in light of the future viability of top-level German football,” league CEO Christian Seifert said. “The Bundesliga now has established the best foundation for belonging to the three strongest football leagues in the world in terms of revenues, and will accordingly be able to present top-level sports at the highest level.”

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