BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — "Game of Thrones" fans, brace yourselves: The fantasy saga's end is perhaps just a few years away.
HBO programming chief Michael Lombardo said Thursday that the drama series' producers are leaning toward three more seasons after the just-concluded season five.
"I'm always hoping they're going to change their minds, but I think that's what we're looking at right now," Lombardo told a Television Critics Association meeting.
Asked about the possibility of a prequel series, Lombardo said he believed there's "enormous story material" to be mined for such a project. But the focus now of showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss is season six of "Game of Thrones," he said, which is in production now for 2016.
The series came under fire this year for a rape scene involving a bride's assault by her husband on their wedding night.
Lombardo, noting that the drama has included violence as a thread since it started, said the producers are careful about not overstepping boundaries while remaining true to the storytelling.
"I support them fully artistically," he said.
Voters in the TV academy weren't swayed by the controversy, making "Game of Thrones" the most-nominated series last month. It received 24 nods for the September awards, including best drama series.
Lombardo was asked if the popular character of Jon Snow, who appeared to die last season, was actually a goner.
"Dead is dead is dead," said Lombardo, adding, "Everything I've seen, heard and read," Snow is dead.