Michael Strahan’s surprise exit from his daytime talk show with Kelly Ripa was engineered to give a needed boost to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” an individual close to the network told TheWrap.
The NFL Hall-of-Famer is seen as a rising star at ABC, and the network hopes to exploit his growing popularity for a more high-profile show that is in the midst of an ongoing ratings battle with NBC’s “Today.” He’s been a “GMA” contributor since 2014.
ABC’s flagship morning program recently won its 15th straight sweeps month among total viewers, while “Today” has been winning the key demo. Moreover, average viewership at “GMA” is down 10 percent year-over-year and producers have been under pressure to make up ground.
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“This came together very quickly,” another source close to the show told TheWrap, adding that the deal to move Strahan evolved in just the past five days or so. “I don’t think they told her everything,” the source added, saying it was not the first time Ripa had been kept “in the dark.”
There may be tension on set as well. “Kelly has been very moody and emotional the past couple of years and Strahan was dreading going to work,” said one high-ranking daytime TV veteran who insisted on anonymity.
A publicist for Ripa did not return a call and email seeking comment.
The switch in roles will leave a big gap at “Live With Kelly and Michael,” where the hard-working and personable Strahan has been serving as co-host since 2012.
Also Read: Kelly Ripa Kept 'In the Dark' as Michael Strahan Sprinted to 'GMA'
According to a source close to the network, viewers should expect to see a rotating panel of guest hosts to join Ripa until ABC execs find someone who stands out. Ripa’s wish list for a replacement includes Anderson Cooper, Bravo’s Andy Cohen and Neil Patrick Harris.
Back when Regis Philbin retired as Ripa’s co-host in 2011, it took 10 months before the network settled on Strahan as a permanent replacement. The rotating guest hosts will essentially be trying out for the gig.
Jerry Seinfeld, Rob Lowe, Neil Patrick Harris, Joel McHale, Andy Cohen, Alec Baldwin and Mario Lopez were among the 60 guest co-hosts on the show that was temporarily renamed simply “Live! With Kelly.”
Josh Groban and Seth Meyers were reportedly finalists before Strahan got the job the last time around — though Meyers has since landed his own late-night show on NBC.
Also Read: Michael Strahan to Leave 'Live' for Full-Time 'GMA' Spot
Strahan is expected to leave “Live!” over the summer, and begin his new role at “GMA” in September, joining Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, Lara Spencer, Amy Roach and Ginger Zee.
Strahan has been one of the hardest-working people on television since he retired from the NFL.
In addition to co-hosting “Live!” and contributing to “GMA,” the former defensive end for the New York Giants is a regular on Fox’s NFL studio show and scheduled to host “$100,000 Pyramid” this summer. His NFL and “Pyramid” roles are not expected to be impacted by the permanent move to “GMA.”
Scott Collins contributed to this report.