HBO exec on how long he wants Game of Thrones to run (+ why he doesn't want a film)

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Mar 12, 2015, 5:41 PM EDT

With a fifth season of Game of Thrones looming, fans are looking forward to the latest schemes, betrayals and slaughters in Westeros and beyond. HBO, however, is already looking ahead to the future of the series. We already know we can expect more than five years of the show, but exactly how many more is still a matter of some discussion at the network, and the future is made even more unclear by the ever-more-likely scenario that showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss will outpace Westeros' creator, George R.R. Martin, in telling the overall story. We've already seen signs of the show going its own way even as it adapts the fifth book in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga, A Dance with Dragons, and with the publication date of Martin's sixth book still very uncertain, it's looking more and more like Benioff and Weiss will, perhaps with Martin's guidance, end the series onscreen before Martin ends it on the page.

But regardless of how the series eventually wraps up, how long will that take? Benioff and Weiss have publicly said in the past that they expect to take seven or eight seasons to tell the entire story, and that's an impressive run for any TV series, but considering how well the show has treated its network thus far, could HBO want to extend that stay? In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, HBO President of Programming Michael Lombardo said he'd love to keep the show on his network for a full decade.

“This is the hard part of what we do,” sighs HBO programming president Michael Lombardo. “We started this journey with David and Dan. It’s their vision. Would I love the show to go 10 years as both a fan and a network executive? Absolutely.”

Of course, HBO wants to keep this show going. When things are going this well from a ratings standpoint, why wouldn't you? But what about Weiss and Benioff and their projection of a full run that's shorter than 10 seasons? What about serving story over profit? Well, when it comes to the story, Lombardo seems to trust his showrunners.

“We’ll have an honest conversation that explores all possible avenues,” Lombardo says. “If they weren’t comfortable going beyond seven seasons, I trust them implicitly and trust that’s the right decision—as horrifying as that is to me. What I’m not going to do is have a show continue past where the creators believe where they feel they’ve finished with the story.”

"All possible avenues" of course suggests things like spinoffs, which AMC is already pursuing with their own hit series like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. The world of Game of Thrones is certainly vast enough to accommodate that, and George R.R. Martin's own overall deal with HBO could certainly produce companion series, even one based on his series of "Dunk & Egg" novellas. It's probably a conversation for another day, but it certainly sounds like HBO is doing its best to juggle the needs of the story with the needs of the network to keep churning out hits.

Speaking of Game of Thrones' future, Lombardo also addressed talk of a movie. Many people have brought it up, including Martin, who suggested the possiblity of ending the series with a feature film. For Lombardo, though, that doesn't seem like a good idea, not because he thinks people wouldn't go see it, but because he wants loyal HBO viewers to finish the series in the same place they started it.

“Certainly there have been conversations where it’s been said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do that?’” Lombardo said. “But when you start a series with our subscribers, the promise is that for your HBO fee that we’re going to take you to the end of this. I feel that on some level [a movie would be] changing the rules: Now you have to pay $16 to see how your show ends.”

However the eventual ending of the show shakes out, it's clear we're in for another few years of Game of Thrones. What do you think? When will the show actually wrap up?

(Via EW)