Kelly Ripa has finally settled on a new co-host.
More than a year after Michael Strahan's infamous exit, occasional guest host Ryan Seacrest has accepted a full-time job with the show. In addition to co-hosting what will be retitled Live With Kelly and Ryan, Seacrest will become an executive producer on the long-running daytime series. The deal, which has been quietly in the works for months, was announced on air Monday.
The news comes a year after Seacrest wrapped American Idol, which had been a cornerstone of his television résumé for more than a decade. In the months immediately following, he was open about his desire to take time to explore his options, suggesting that a "live" format would likely be key to whatever he did next. Ultimately, the Live With Kelly opportunity offered him the chance to be part of a top-rated live daytime show, without the increasingly Herculean task of having to launch one from scratch. Seacrest attempted the latter in 2004; On Air With Ryan Seacrest lasted less than a year.
Ripa opened the show by calling Monday a "very good day."
"Today, the next chapter of the Live story is about to be written," she announced. "Today, my new co-host will officially be joining me on Live, and today is a very good day." She then thanked all the rotating co-hosts who appeared on her show over the past year, as well as the fans for their patience. "Part of what makes this show so special is through helping us out, [the guest hosts] all became family and they are a part of the Live family forever."
Seacrest made his debut early into Monday's show, walking out hand-in-hand with Ripa in front of the new Live With Kelly and Ryan marquee. "Kelly and I have known each other for a long time, and when this happened we were told to keep it a secret - and we're not great at that," Seacrest explained before airing video of his clandestine ride to set that morning. Ripa added, "We don't call it a secret anymore in my house, we call it a Seacrest."
The Seacrest is out! @RyanSeacrest #KellyAndRyan #LiveKellyRyan pic.twitter.com/YqV9n0IeTG
- Kelly Ripa (@KellyRipa) May 1, 2017
Of appeal is the history and strong chemistry between the pair. Their friendship dates back to 2005, when they began a four-year run co-hosting the Walt Disney Christmas Parade together. In the last year, Seacrest has turned up in the chair beside her with some frequency, including for the post-Oscars show in Los Angeles. The Live format isn't unlike Seacrest's radio show, in that both are a forum to discuss pop culture and interview celebrity guests. The Hollywood Reporter was the first to speculate such a move was possible in April 2016.
"Ryan is a quintessential broadcaster and at the top of his game. I am thrilled to start my mornings with him every day, and we are so fortunate at Live to have him join the family," Ripa said in a statement. "Ryan is a close friend, and his star shines as brightly off camera as it does on. His tremendous success is only matched by his impeccable reputation. Plainly said, everyone loves him, and so will our daily viewers."
Added Seacrest: "Not only is Kelly Ripa one of the most talented live hosts in broadcast TV; she's also become a very dear friend to me over the years. It's consistently been my privilege and pleasure to work alongside Kelly with all her incredible talents, charm and humor - whether hosting the Disney Christmas Day Parade special with her a decade ago or guest co-hosting alongside her on Live, it's always just been easy and fun to share a set with her, and we have a blast."
To be sure, Ripa had a significant hand in selecting her permanent co-host. She was upped to executive producer status in her last deal, which came in the wake of ABC's mishandling of Strahan's departure. Lest one forgets, Ripa was kept in the dark as ABC plotted Strahan's move from Live to Good Morning America, only to find out mere minutes before viewers did. She was not shy about her frustration, initially boycotting the show before returning with a mix of humor and candor about the circumstances she found herself in.
Though close pal Anderson Cooper may have been Ripa's first choice to replace Strahan (a non-starter given his CNN contract), Seacrest was not far behind. ABC is believed to have weighed considerably cheaper choices, including frequent guest hosts Fred Savage and Jerry O'Connell, but Seacrest offered what the others didn't: a significantly higher profile, a 20 million-plus social media following, decades of experience with live broadcasting and, perhaps most of all, Ripa's support.
The move isn't without complications, however. Seacrest has long been based in Los Angeles, where he not only oversees a production company but also hosts a local and national syndicated daily radio show. Though Ryan Seacrest Productions and Ryan Seacrest Enterprises will stay put in L.A., he will relocate to New York, where he'll transition his radio work. The latter collectively reaches nearly 35 million monthly, which is why a brand-new iHeartRadio studio has been readied for him at New York's ABC7, home of Live With Kelly and Ryan. He'll also continue hosting red-carpet specials for the Oscars, Grammys and Golden Globes on E! as well as ABC's New Year's Rockin' Eve, among other series. Seacrest's other efforts, including the series he produces (Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Shades of Blue), his fashion collection (Ryan Seacrest Distinction) and his entrepreneurial and philanthropic pursuits will continue unchanged.
The deal was brokered by a team that included Hansen Jacobsen, CAA and top executives from Ryan Seacrest Enterprises, COO/CFO Jeff Refold and president Kelly Mullens Brown.
Our #LiveKellyCohost @RyanSeacrest!!! Welcome to the family! #KellyandRyan #RyanSeacrest #seacrest #TuneinToLive pic.twitter.com/0OOIGJSnIR
- LIVE with Kelly (@LiveKelly) May 1, 2017