Nikolaj Coster as Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones.
Nikolaj Coster as Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones. Contributed - Showtime publicity website

Game of Thrones renewed for fourth season

HIT US show Game of Thrones will be back for a fourth season.

US network HBO has announced the show, based on George R.R. Martin's best-selling A Song of Fire and Ice book series, will get another 10-episode run in early 2014.

HBO spokesman Quentin Schaffer told AFP the series would likely begin filming later this year.

"We are picking it up for 10 episodes. It will likely be back in production this summer," Schaffer said.

The first episode of the show's third season screened on New Zealand TV on Monday, just hours after its debut in the US.

It received record ratings in the US, with a total audience of 11.7 million across all platforms.

The show has also become the most pirated television series in the world.

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According to website Torrentfreak, the final episode of the second series in 2012 was illegally downloaded by some 4.3 million people.

"I probably shouldn't be saying this, but it is a compliment of sorts," HBO director of programming Michael Lombardo said in a recent interview.

"The demand is there. And it certainly didn't negatively impact the DVD sales. (Piracy is) something that comes along with having a wildly successful show on a subscription network."

HBO's decision to approve a fourth season of the show was considered a formality, with the third season covering only half of A Storm of Swords, the acclaimed third book of Martin's series.

The next season is expected to cover the second half of the book.

Game of Thrones is a particularly expensive show to make, with elaborate sets scattered through Ireland, Croatia and Iceland.

>>Check out a preview of the third season here

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