Game of Thrones will return in 2019 — HBO

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The eighth and final season will only be six episodes in total.

At last, HBO has confirmed the long-speculated news that its flagship hit series Game of Thrones is taking a year off.

The pay network also confirmed the writers and directors for the final season. But given that the network opted to air GoT in the spring every year until a longer-than-usual production schedule pushed season 7 to last summer, a return to a spring launch seems logical.

Later, HBO programming chief Casey Bloys confirmed to us that a 2019 date was indeed possible.

The official word comes weeks after Sansa Stark actress Sophie Turner blurted it out in an interview with Variety. Head here for a probably breakdown of which episodes Nutter and Sapochnik will direct. The season will be written by Benioff and Weiss, as well as Bryan Cogman and Dave Hill.

The show, which has more Emmy Awards than any other narrative series and pulls in more than 20 million USA viewers per episode, moved beyond George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels in season six.

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The news was largely welcomed by the entertainment press, with critics satisfied that the lay-off would mean a higher-quality final season.

According to Fairfield, the final season could consist of six feature film-length episodes.

In fact, when it's all said and done, we might not be too far short of a 10-episode series, in terms of overall runtime.

Benioff and Weiss have already co-directed two "Game of Thrones" episodes: The season four premiere ("Two Swords") and the third episode of season three ("Walk of Punishment"). Alumni Miguel Sapochnick will direct the other two.

The GoT pushback also gives author George R.R. Martin more runway to potentially release the next book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter, which he teased last summer might be ready in 2018.

Sapochnik was unable to return for season seven due to scheduling conflicts, so fans should be thrilled to see he's back for the final installment of the series.

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