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HBO Renews 'Game of Thrones' for Season 4

UPDATED: Following more record-breaking ratings, the HBO series will return in 2014 for another 10-episode season.

Cersei Lannister

Two days after an especially strong premiere, HBO has announced a fourth-season pickup for Game of Thrones.

The renewal, considered a given with the series' increasingly high profile and ratings growth, will include 10 episodes most likely to premiere in early 2014.

PHOTOS: 'Game of Thrones' Season 3 Preview

Game of Thrones' Sunday season premiere brought in a series record 4.4 million viewers, up 4 percent from the previous high despite particularly stiff cable competition from AMC's The Walking Dead. The series also pulled 6.7 million viewers across three plays during the course of the night, up from the 2012 debut by 7 percent.

Game of Thrones also is grossing 11.6 million viewers per episode across platforms, including linear plays, DVR, On Demand and HBO Go.

Created by David Benioff and Dan Weiss, Game of Thrones is based on the best-selling A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin and ranks as the network's third-most-watched series of all time -- trailing only True Blood among current shows.

A particularly expensive endeavor, Game of Thrones production is based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but it also shoots in Croatia and Iceland. Up until the current third season, the series has chronicled Martin's books individually. The current run, based on A Storm of Swords, will only follow roughly half of the book. Season four presumably will tackle the second half.

PHOTOS: 'Game of Thrones' Season 3 Premiere

The speed of the series has prompted some questions about the likely endgame. The final two installments of Martin's seven-book series have yet to be written.

"My dream chronology is that the books finish first, and I do have a considerable lead over them," the author recently told The Hollywood Reporter. "It's true that they're moving faster than I am -- the series has its own speed -- but I don't see us catching up for another three years or so, by which time another book will be out. That should give them another two seasons of material. And while I'm writing the last book, they'd be making those."

Email: Michael.OConnell@THR.com; Twitter: @MikeyLikesTV