'True Blood's' Seventh Season Will Be Its Last

True Blood Season 6 Finale Paquin Manganiello - H 2013

True Blood Season 6 Finale Paquin Manganiello - H 2013

HBO is ending True Blood.

The premium cable network announced Tuesday that the vampire drama based on Charlaine Harris' books will concluded with its 10-episode seventh season.

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"True Blood has been nothing short of a defining show for HBO," said HBO president of programming Michael Lombardo in a statement. "Alan Ball took the books by Charlaine Harris, assembled a brilliant cast led by the magnificent Anna Paquin in the role of Sookie Stackhouse, and crafted a show that has taken its many devoted fans on an unforgettable journey. Alan passed the baton to Brian Buckner, who led our fantastic writers and crew in crafting a spectacular sixth season, and he will lead us through the seventh and final season of this amazing show. Together with its legions of fans, it will be hard to say goodbye to the residents of Bon Temps, but I look forward to what promises to be a fantastic final chapter of this incredible show."

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Added Ball, who stepped down as showrunner ahead of the drama's recently concluded sixth season: "From the moment I read Charlaine’s books, I thought there was potential for something really special. Then our amazing writers, cast and crew brought her world to life in a way that exceeded my wildest expectations. I'm deeply grateful to HBO for being true partners and collaborators, and, of course, to the viewers who chose to spend Sunday nights in Bon Temps with us."

Said Buckner, who will steer the series to its conclusion: "I feel enormously proud to have been a part of the True Blood family since the very beginning. I guarantee that there's not a more talented or harder-working cast and crew out there, and I'd like to extend a personal heartfelt thanks to them for their dedication and tenacity over the years, especially this past year, as I stepped into a larger role. Thank you also to HBO for their unwavering support and of course to Alan Ball, whose genius enabled all of us to share in this incredible journey. Finally, a huge thank you to the most passionate fans in television. As we take a final walk through Bon Temps together, we will do our very best to bring Sookie's story to a close with heart, imagination and, of course, fun."

HBO renewed True Blood for its seventh season in July after its sixth season opened to 4.5 million total viewers in June -- down about 700,000 year-over-year. The vampire drama ranks as HBO's third-most-watched original scripted series ever, trailing only The Sopranos and Game of Thrones.

Following the conclusion of its sixth season -- which ended with a new alliance between humans and vampires, Buckner told The Hollywood Reporter that he thought the series had "one or two more great years.

"It's going to be an HBO call," he continued. "I don't have the answer yet. I'm requesting it. I want to know if I'm breaking the final season or not. I do hope to get that answer. The show is viable as long as the audience still cares. They might be mad right now, but they care," he said, with a nod to Alexander Skarsgard's then-uncertain future with the series.

Beyond True Blood, HBO has dramas Boardwalk Empire returning for its fourth season and the fourth season of Game of Thrones set for spring 2014. The future for cable news drama The Newsroom remains unclear as HBO has said it would like to see it return for a third season, but the fate of the series rests on showrunner Aaron Sorkin and his busy schedule.

On the pilot side, the cabler is developing Damon Lindelof's The Leftovers, a rock-and-roll drama from Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger with Bobby Cannavale attached, and Cold War drama The Missionary.

The final season of True Blood returns next summer. A formal premiere date has not yet been announced.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit