'Game of Thrones' Renewed for Season 3

Cersei Lannister
Helen Sloan

Lena Headey returns as Cersei Lannister, mother to King Joffrey.

Fans of HBO's Game of Thrones can expect A Storm of Swords in 2013. The network said Tuesday that it has renewed the fantasy hit for Season 3, meaning at least part of George R.R. Martin's third book in the "Song of Ice and Fire" series will get a television adaptation.

The news comes after record-breaking ratings during last week's Season 2 premiere. A total of 3.9 million viewers watched the inaugural broadcast, with a combined 6.3 million tuning in to the network's multiple broadcasts for the night. That marked 53 percent gains from its freshman season average and a 27 percent rise from the previous high reached by last season's finale. The second episode dropped less than 3 percent, pulling 3.8 million viewers.

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“Series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss raised our expectations for the second season -- and then surpassed them,” said HBO programming president Michael Lombardo. “We are thrilled by all the viewer and media support we’ve received for the series and can’t wait to see what Dan and David have in store for next season.”

Game of Thrones' series premiere brought in 2.2 million viewers and a 0.9 rating among adults 18-49 back in April 2011. It showed steady ratings growth during the course of the freshman season, eventually ending with 3 million and a 1.4 rating in the demo.

Keeping with the first two seasons, the third likely will consist of 10 episodes -- but unlike the first two, it won't likely follow one of Martin's books from start to finish. Echoing past sentiments, co-creator Weiss recently acknowledged that A Storm of Swords couldn't be told in just 10 episodes.

"A Storm of Swords is too long to fit in a single season," said Weiss. "And as readers know, A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons take place during roughly the same time frame, so we’ll have to fold those together. The plan, if we’re lucky enough to be given the opportunity to see it through, is to use as many seasons as we need to tell the story as a whole, to do justice to George’s entire opus."

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And that seems to be the game plan for HBO. Co-president Richard Plepler said at last summer's Television Critics Association press tour that the network would produce the series as long as Martin wanted it to.

A costly endeavor, Thrones films entirely abroad, with most of production based in Northern Ireland. After its first season, the series earned 13 Emmy nominations and two wins as well as two Golden Globe noms. Both award shows gave supporting actor nods to Peter Dinklage for playing Tyrion Lannister.

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