ABC Replacing Kelly Ripa’s ‘Live’ with Another Hour of ‘Good Morning America’? Don’t Bet On It

Live! With Kelly and Michael
Courtesy of ABC

The drama that erupted behind the scenes this week on “Live with Kelly and Michael” has stirred renewed speculation about ABC’s interest in expanding “Good Morning America” to a third hour at 9 a.m. That hour at present is occupied on the ABC O&Os and many ABC affiliate stations by “Live.”

But would Disney deliberately dismantle an enduring a.m. franchise that generates an estimated $85 million-$90 million annually in license fees and advertising revenue? That’s hard to imagine in any rational scenario.

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ABC brass are taking lumps for ham-fisted talent relations in the way they broke the news to Kelly Ripa that her co-host of the past four years, Michael Strahan, will be heading to “GMA” full time as of the fall. Ripa expressed her displeasure with the decision by sitting out the rest of this week’s “Live” broadcasts, leading to some awkward on-air moments for all involved.

The Ripa rift has led to a lot of snickers and second-guessing within ABC and Disney. But Disney/ABC TV Group chief Ben Sherwood and his team would have to be truly nuts to table a sure-thing in “Live” — which has been renewed by its 238 affiliate stations nationwide through the 2019-20 season — in favor of an untested new hour of “GMA” at a time of fierce competition in the morning show wars.

The hurdles for ABC to take over the 9 a.m. hour on its 200-plus affiliate stations for an extra hour of “GMA” are significant. But more important, pursuing such an effort would break a cardinal rule of television: If something is working, don’t break it. And “Live,” by any measure, is a workhorse for Disney.

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The removal of Strahan flies in the face of the don’t-mess-with-success mantra, but “Live’s” past precedent indicates that the show can weather turnover at the host desk. Ripa succeeded Kathie Lee Gifford in 2001; Strahan replaced the show’s founding host, Regis Philbin, in 2012 after Ripa went through nearly a year of on-air guest hosts before finding the right match.

“Live” is appointment TV for about 4 million viewers for the season to date, and the vast majority of its affiliate stations run the show at 9 a.m., coming out of national or local news programs. Moving the show even by an hour on ABC’s O&Os could easily disrupt a viewer routine that “Live” has developed over decades. Monkeying with that habit would be the TV equivalent of ABC shooting itself in the remote control. Never underestimate the importance of strong a.m. ratings on affiliate stations to help power a network’s primetime’s performance. The morning audience feeds into the afternoon and early evening newscasts which flow into primetime — this remains the natural order of things for broadcast networks and their affiliates, despite the multiplatform viewing revolution.

“Live” is often mistaken for an ABC network program but in fact it is syndicated by Disney/ABC TV Group’s first-run distribution arm. The show is carried by various affiliates of the Big Four networks across the country. All of those stations pay license fees for the show to Disney, and they hand over a few minutes of the advertising time in each hour, allowing Disney to market those spots as a national ad buy.

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The vast majority of “Live” stations run the show at 9 a.m., coming out of local or national morning news programs — the perfect fit with “Live’s” breezy mix of host chat about the headlines, celebrity guests and lifestyle segments. The show is produced out of WABC-TV New York using that station’s facilities and crew, which makes it an extremely cost-effective production for Disney.

“Live” at present is the No. 2 ranked daytime talk show, close behind “Dr. Phil” in total viewers for the season to date. In women 25-54, the key daytime demo, the show draws a 1.4, tied with Ellen DeGeneres’ yakker and just a tenth of a point behind “Dr. Phil.” In women 18-49 it pulls a 1.0 for the season to date, just a hair behind “Dr. Phil.” “Live’s” numbers are impressive given that “Dr. Phil” and “Ellen” typically air in afternoon time slots when the overall number of people watching television is larger than in the morning.

Meanwhile, for ABC to expand to a third hour of “GMA” would require enlisting all of its affiliate stations to clear the 9 a.m. hour for network programming. That would not be an easy process as many of those stations have long-term commitments to existing shows such as “Live” and other syndicated hits. It would likely require serious horse-trading between the network and affiliates.

For all these reasons and more, ABC reps should be taken at their word when they insist that “Live” isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. That’s as much of a certainty as the fact that ABC has just handed Ripa a truckload of leverage for negotiating a new deal to succeed her existing contract, which is believed to run through the 2016-17 season. Knowledgable industry sources say those discussions will begin sooner rather than later, probably as soon as Ripa returns to the “Live” set as expected next week.

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  1. Kelly needs a permanent co-host! She’s not strong enough to carry the show by herself! I used watch all the time, now I only watch when like the co-host. There have been some I really like, but don’t think they’ll be available permanently. Fred Savage, Jerry O’Connell, & Anderson Cooper. The rest have been hit or miss!

  2. Please do not go the route of playing games on the show!!! They did it on Ellen Show & the show went downhill really fast. Do not watch anymore. Thank you.

  3. Stacy Parker says:

    A Disney Land in China! REALLY!!!? What about that BARBARIC YULIN FESTIVAL??? Killing DOGS by the thousands and this is a place for children?? I’m VERRRY DISAPPOINTED that this is NOT reported on NATIONAL TV! These are PETS that are STOLEN from people and you report a RESORT to bring more money into this NEANDERTHAL COUNTRY! THIS HORRIBLE festival needs to be STOPPED IMMEDIATELY! Why didn’t u show this HORRIFIC FESTIVAL to the people of this Great United States instead of a billion dollar Disney Park which IS ALL ABOUT ANIMALS along with fairy tail castles and princesses. If WALT was alive I am very sure he would NOT have put his creation in a land of BLOOD AND DEATH!! SHAME ON YOU FOR DISHONORING SHAME ON YOU ALL WHO SUPPORT THIS PARK!!!

  4. Betts Graham says:

    I would like to send an email to the Kelly Ripa Live Show but am unable to find a way to send it. How
    can I contact Kelly Ripa via email?

  5. Kelly Let’s Get Together Some How

  6. blake says:

    Just read that Michael is now set to leave May 13th! Great news!

    Jerry O’Connell would make a great co-host to Kelly.

  7. OMG!!! What were you Disney exec’s thinking? While Disney represents the epitome of happiness, goodness, wholesome movies, Disneyland and fabulous animations ( A GAME Baby), there is a major transparent and apparent contrast in your Corporate maneuvering. Ruthless, brutal, sterile, surgical and amputating is just a few of the adjectives to describe your latest move we as viewers are experiencing from your Corporate mindset. And although this is normal in the real business world, this would be never be expected or thought to be viewed, let alone experienced of Disney Executives. Kelly Ripa brings a whole lot to the table. She is always STELLAR in everything she does and it is LIVE! Genuine, a Class Act and a major enhancement and contributor to your A Game! You are touching the minds and hearts of millions of TV viewers. A tasteless bad move, and no display of finesse… Want a suggestion? The View has changed its format and is disgusting, Once intrigued by the quality of sophistication, information and Special Guest has become very bizarre and less than common. I change the Channel after Kelly Live to Channel 4. Why? Because it maintains the same quality of your A game of wholesomeness,etc. and not the bizarre thinking or common discussions. If I want bizarre and common, I just step outside to real life. It is too much and quite frankly I am so allergic to Whoopi and her passive aggressive bullying… Thank You for allowing me to vent this reaction to your disruption. Best of Success to you, you are going to need it!

  8. Mary Nolan says:

    Maybe Haley Vaughn should show up on GH. I’d watch…

  9. XannaDont says:

    I agree with all the points made by this writer. But we’re talking about ABC here, the daft network that allowed Brian Frons to cancel its highest rated daytime show at the time, One Life To Live, and its sister soap, All My Children. Frons is no longer with the network, none of OLTL’s replacement shows have stuck, and many fans are boycotting the network as a whole. We can’t underestimate ABC’s proven ability to sabotage its own success.

  10. pat spino says:

    get rid of Kelly. she.s not worth what she is getting paid, she has a nasty way about her. I have not watched for ages,

  11. Peter says:

    The person who botched this up should be fired – Im not a network exec and I could have told them how it was going to play out. Also, forget about searching for a new co-host – offer Anderson Cooper the job and if he takes it, announce it – period.

  12. Annie says:

    They pull Kelly and I’ll never watch a GMA again. This was handled so poorly by GMA and Michael, it comes off as dirty and that will follow them for a long time to come! Shame on you Disney, GMA, & Michael!

  13. Phil says:

    Really?
    Good, but why is there an article in Variety today with the following headline:
    “Kelly Ripa Says She’ll Return to ‘Live’ on Tuesday Daniel Holloway

  14. Ron Morris says:

    I stopped watching “Live” when Strahan started on the show. “Odd” guy I thought. Good rid-dens.

  15. Lex says:

    Ah, the plot thins.

  16. Katy says:

    If your a soap fan (like me) there have been rumblings since All My Children and One Life To Live went off the air that GMA wanted to expand its timeslot but it was more expensive than creating new reality shows and now I am hearing they want the timeslot General Hospital has (which is the only timeslot left not held by the affiliates or the View/Chew). Its all quiet and hush hush but this has been in the works for a long time now.

  17. will says:

    “Live” would be an ideal bridge between a third hour of GMA and The View, at least in the Eastern Time Zone.

  18. Pookie says:

    I am SO tired of Kelly Ripa and her “Diva Attitudes”. It is incredibly unprofessionak to sit out…no matrer wht the reason!

  19. Jimmy Green says:

    Kelly actually holds all the cards but Disney and stupid Sherwood don’t know it just yet.

  20. Kenny says:

    Leave “Live” alone. Go mess with “The View,” which is actually *on* ABC, and long past its due date.

    • Richard says:

      In my local market when Strahan joined the time and the stations switched and it never again for me became appointment TV. I just don’t really view his contributions as any more than a big goofy friendly guy on Live or GMA. Regis was a real raconteur who brought grace and wit to Kelly’s enthusiasm. She needs someone to form a similar chemistry with.
      The handling of this was truly unprofessional . It damages ABC TV, GMA and Micheal who now becomes the new Matt Lauer.

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