Even though Thrones showrunners have repeatedly declared they hope to conclude the fantasy hit around the 70-hour mark, HBO programming president Michael Lombardo for the first time firmly proclaimed the series will go at least eight seasons.
“Seven-seasons-and-out has never been the [internal] conversation,” Lombardo said to critics at the Television Critics Association’s press tour Thursday when a reporter asked if the show would end after seven. “The question is: How much beyond seven are we going to do? Obviously we’re shooting six now, hopefully discussing seven. [Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss are] feel like there’s two more years after six. I would always love for them to change their minds, but that’s what we’re looking at right now.”
Lombardo’s statement doesn’t mean the series is officially renewed for eight seasons—the current order is only through next year—but it’s the next-best thing.
Okay, so what about doing a prequel series, since author George R.R. Martin has created a world with such a lengthy and detailed history?
“I would be open to anything that Dan and David wanted to do—about Game of Thrones, or any subject matter,” Lombardo said. “It really would depend fully on what they wanted to do. I think you’re right, there’s enormous storytelling to be mined in a prequel, if George and Dan and David decide they want to tackle that. At this point, all the focus is on the next few years of the show. We haven’t had any conversations about that at this point.”
Lombardo also defended Thrones from criticisms about the show’s violent season 5 content (Sansa Stark’s storyline in particular). “In the pilot episode we see a 7-year-old boy pushed to seemingly his death from a tower,” Lombardo said. “This show has had violence from the first episode. I can’t speak to any single person’s particular taste, but I think the show is phenomenal. It went to 20 million viewers this year, it went up over 1 million viewers from the prior season. The show continues to grow dramatically. There are no two showrunners who are more careful about now overstepping what they think the line is—and everybody has their own line. [What they show] is critical to the storytelling.”
The president was also asked—of course—if Jon Snow is really dead (especially since actor Kit Harington has recently been spotted in Belfast, where Thrones is primarily shot). Lombardo maintained the same stance as the rest of the show’s team.
“Dead is dead is dead,” he said. “He be dead. Um, yes. Everything I’ve seen, heard and read, Jon Snow is indeed dead.”
Before the panel, HBO also gave fans even more good news: Season 5 will be available on home video next month—much earlier than usual.