The two sides are jockeying for control over the successor to Strahan, the former NFL who is leaving Friday for a new role at “Good Morning America.”
Ripa is pushing for Cooper, the CNN anchor who has guest-hosted on “Live” before and had his own short-lived daytime talk show, according to sources familiar with the situation. When asked in a People cover story whether Cooper was the frontrunner, Ripa coyly replied: “Stay tuned.” She also has several other names on a short list, including Neil Patrick Harris. (A Ripa spokeswoman did not return an email seeking comment.)
But executives at Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, want to proceed with a plan like the one in 2011, when dozens of guest hosts – ranging from Jerry Seinfeld to Josh Groban – trooped through the “Live” set after Regis Philbin left the show. Strahan eventually got the job.
Such a process would give executives months to assess which guest hosts clicked best with Ripa, and also look at ratings and viewers’ reactions in focus groups and on social media. Choosing Cooper could also be tricky, as he would likely remain at CNN – as he did during his own talk-show tenure – and would probably not be able to start full-time until after the November election. A CNN spokeswoman did not return an email seeking comment.
Ripa has already launched a PR campaign, with the People story overshadowing Strahan’s last days on the show. Executives earned her ire by maneuvering behind her back to shift Strahan to “GMA.” Ripa learned of the change only shortly before the news went public. She told the magazine that she felt dissed by ABC, saying: “People deserve respect.”
All the more reason why the network has to tread carefully as it ponders who will be the next person to sit beside Ripa on morning TV.