LOS ANGELES (NYTIMES/REUTERS) - In what is disappointing news for Game Of Thrones fans, HBO confirmed on Thursday (Jan 4) that the show will not return for its eighth and final season until 2019.
Though shooting began in October and the final season will have only six episodes, compared to 10 in the first six seasons and seven last year, there had been indications that the fantasy epic wouldn't come back in 2018.
Actors and others who work on the show have suggested that Season 8's episodes - and thus the length of the shoot - will be the longest Game Of Thrones has ever had.
So far, the roughly 80-minute Season 7 finale has been the show's longest episode.
The final season of the Emmy Award-winning show is expected to reveal which of the warring families in the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros will win the multigenerational struggle for control of the Iron Throne.
Directors for the new season are the show's creators David Benioff and DB Weiss, as well as old Thrones hands David Nutter and Miguel Sapochnik.
The writers are Benioff and Weiss, Bryan Cogman and Dave Hill.
Season 8 will wrap up one of the most-watched and most-discussed series in the world, drawing more than 30 million viewers each week across all platforms, according to HBO.
HBO’s head of programming, Casey Bloys, has said multiple endings will be filmed to avoid leaks or hacks of how the saga ends.
Benioff and Weiss told Entertainment Weekly in 2016 that they wanted to make the series finale as spectacular as possible.
The long gap until the final season would give author George R.R. Martin the chance to finish one or two new Game Of Thrones books that he said in July he was working on.
The television series has already advanced beyond the events of Martin’s five published A Song Of Ice And Fire series of novels.
HBO is currently developing five potential Game Of Thrones prequel series set in other parts of the world of Martin's books.
Benioff and Weiss are not involved in those concepts but other Thrones veterans, like Cogman, a longtime writer and producer, are.
HBO has said any series that result from the pilots won't debut until at least a year after the end of Game Of Thrones.