Game of Thrones Season 6
Courtesy of HBO

Game of Thrones” will premiere its highly anticipated sixth season on April 24, but the executive producers say they are considering an abbreviated end game for the hit HBO series.

In an exclusive interview with Variety, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said they are weighing wrapping up the Emmy-winning saga of Westeros and the battle for the Iron Throne with just 13 more episodes once this sixth season is over: seven episodes for season 7; six for the eighth and potential final season.

“I think we’re down to our final 13 episodes after this season. We’re heading into the final lap,” said Benioff. “That’s the guess, though nothing is yet set in stone, but that’s what we’re looking at.”

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Sources later clarified those exact numbers were premature, given that the showrunners are now just beginning to outline their plans, but said that any upcoming seasons may be shorter than the full 10 episodes of seasons past.

HBO programming president Michael Lombardo acknowledged the showrunners’ plan to wind down the series with two more years. “That’s my understanding from them right now, those have been the conversations we’ve had,” he says. “Because where these narratives go, it feels like another two years to them. As a television executive, as a fan, do I wish they said another six years? I do.”

But, he added, “I’m always an optimist, and I do believe we will figure this out.”

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It’s long been speculated that the show would end with season eight; HBO signaled back in January that they were in talks with Weiss and Benioff for two more seasons. Fans might have expected that the two additional seasons would run the usual 10-episode-per-season stretch, but the executive producers say the shorter run will enable them to spend more time per episode. “Thrones” is set to go back into production in July.

To live up to the standard they’ve set for themselves — and fans — Weiss and Benioff said they can’t continue to produce 10 episodes of the show in the show’s usual 12- or 14-month time frame. “It’s crossing out of a television schedule into more of a mid-range movie schedule,” Weiss said.

While the “Game of Thrones” showrunners said the shorter-episode scenario is their hope, HBO executives made it clear there’s no deal yet in place. “We’re still in conversations,” said Lombardo.

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