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LOS ANGELES, July 26, 2018 (News Wires) — HBO will debut the final season of its international hit Game of Thrones in the first half of next year and it aims to start production on a prequel in 2019, a network executive said Wednesday.

Casey Bloys, HBO’s president of programming, speaking at a Television Critics Association event, declined to provide details on the eighth and final Game of Thrones season or to provide a more specific premiere date.

The Emmy-winning medieval fantasy series is HBO’s biggest hit ever with some 30 million viewers in the United States and an army of devoted fans worldwide.

HBO, a unit of AT&T Inc, also is in the process of searching for a director and cast for a Game of Thrones prequel, Bloys said in response to questions. He said he hopes the prequel pilot will begin filming next year.

The network announced in June that it had ordered the pilot and would proceed with a full series if the pilot goes well.

The as yet untitled prequel will take place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones. It was created by British screenwriter Jane Goldman with author George R.R. Martin, whose novel series A Song of Ice and Fire is the basis for the Game of Thrones television series.

It will chronicle “the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour,” and look at the secrets of the history of the warring families in the fictional kingdom of Westeros, the network has said.

HBO considered five different scripts before settling on the approach for the prequel.

“The reason we did multiple scripts is out of five, we’d be lucky to get one we are very excited about,” Bloys said.

The remaining four scripts are either dead or still in the works, he said.

LOS ANGELES, July 12, 2018 (News Wires) - HBO's fantasy epic "Game of Thrones" led the field for television's prestigious Primetime Emmy awards on Thursday, with a whopping 22 nominations, including one for best drama series.

The show about noble families vying for the Iron Throne faces tough competition from perennial favorite comedy sketch show "Saturday Night Live" and HBO stablemate "Westworld" with 21 nominations each.

Hulu's "A Handmaid's Tale" -- which won the award for best drama series last year -- earned 20 nods.

"The Assassination of Gianni Versace," one of the few serious contenders this year that can claim to be entirely new, picked up an impressive 18 nominations.

Part of FX's "American Crime Story" strand from the mind of Emmys mainstay Ryan Murphy, it is the follow-up to the acclaimed "The People v. O. J. Simpson" (2016).

The series had been expected to dominate the acting races among the limited series and TV movies -- and indeed it did, with Darren Criss, Penelope Cruz, Edgar Ramirez and Ricky Martin all nominated.

HBO awards darling "Veep" was ineligible this year and its crown passed to "Atlanta," the FX comedy created by and starring Donald Glover, which amassed 16 nods.

Samira Wiley, nominated for guest actress in "The Handmaid's Tale," and Ryan Eggold ("New Amsterdam") presented the nominations from the Television Academy in Los Angeles.

Leading the nominations in totals by platform were Netflix (112), leapfrogging last year's leader HBO, which scored 108. Adrift in third was NBC with 78 nods.