How Kelly Ripa Came Back to ‘Live,’ and What Happens Next

While the rest of New York was starting its weekend, Kelly Ripa was getting ready to head back to work. The “Live! With Kelly and Michael” co-host sent an email to staffers late Friday evening confirming that she would return to the show on Tuesday. The move was a major step toward steadying “Live,” which slid into chaos last week after ABC announced that co-host Michael Strahan would leave for “Good Morning America” and Ripa subsequently went AWOL.

“I wanted to thank you all for giving me the time to process this new information,” Ripa wrote. “Your kindness, support, and love has overwhelmed me. We are a family and I look forward to seeing you all on Tuesday morning.”

Two sources close to the show told Variety that Ripa’s email came after ABC executives — the news division is responsible for “GMA,” while the syndication arm handles “Live” — worked to repair relations in the wake of the botched Strahan-to-“GMA” announcement. Ripa was angered when she and executive producer Michael Gelman were told of Strahan’s move just before ABC announced it publicly, then did not come to work the next day. As the week progressed and Ripa maintained her distance from the show, ABC execs — including WABC’s Dave Davis, Rebecca Campbell of ABC’s owned stations group and ABC news chief James Goldston — reached out to Ripa to apologize for the way the announcement was handled.

They also reaffirmed ABC’s commitment to “Live” amid rumors that the network wanted to kill the show and replace it with a third hour of “GMA.” Such a move would be logistically difficult because of affiliate commitments. It would also be a huge financial gamble, as “Live” pulls in $85-90 million per year in estimated ad revenue and license fees.

“Pretty Little Liars” star Shay Mitchell — the third “Live” guest co-host in the last four episodes — sat in Monday for Ripa, who had already planned a weekend wedding anniversary trip with husband Mark Consuelos prior to the Strahan announcement. By contacting staff Friday night, she cleared the issue from her plate before the weekend and set herself up to return to “Live” with a massive amount of leverage.

Although ABC this year renewed “Live” through 2020, Ripa’s contract expires at the end of the 2016-17 season. With Strahan departing and little time to find and groom his replacement before Ripa’s deal blows up, Ripa holds the show’s future in her hands. If ABC can incentivize her to stay, “Live” likely carries on as the No. 2 rated syndicated show in daytime. If it cannot, it risks watching suitors line up to woo her to a place where she would compete with Strahan and “GMA” or another of ABC’s daytime franchises.

When Ripa returns Tuesday morning, expect cordiality between her and Strahan. “Live” sources told Variety that the two spoke over the weekend, and that Strahan also received apologies from ABC execs over the mishandling of what should have been a celebratory moment for him.

But regardless of how mended Ripa and Strahan’s relationship is, the prospect of the two hosting “Live” together until Strahan moves to “GMA” in September — the original plan laid out by ABC — now looks remote. A more likely scenario would see Strahan make an earlier exit from the show, then take time off before joining “GMA” full-time and resuming his fall football-analyst duties on “Fox NFL Sunday.” That would allow ABC to get started sooner on finding Strahan’s “Live” replacement, a process that will involve multiple guest co-hosts auditioning on-air alongside Ripa and one that will take several months.

If ABC drags its feet through that process, it risks the show-killing possibility of watching Strahan’s replacement walk in the door just as Ripa heads out of it.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa - The

    'Walking Dead' Star Christian Serratos in Talks for Selena Series at Netflix

    Christian Serratos is in negotiations to star in the upcoming Netflix series based on the life of Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla, Variety has confirmed with sources. The series was announced back in December and is described as a coming of age story following Selena (Serratos) as her dreams come true and all the heart-wrenching [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs for Screens: 'American Horror Story' Makes 'Suddenly Last Summer' Sizzle Again

    FX Network’s “American Horror Story” returns for a ninth season next month, and promos for the next chapter of the anticipated series, dubbed ‘AHS 1984,’ have been airing frequently across cable television throughout August. In the short yet effective spot (see below), the Motels’ melancholic, moody “Suddenly Last Summer” plays as aerial footage of an [...]

  • Wanda Sykes, Mike Epps to Star

    Wanda Sykes, Mike Epps to Star in Multi-Camera Comedy Series for Netflix

    Wanda Sykes and Mike Epps are headed to Netflix. The streamer has ordered a multi-camera comedy series starring the two comedians titled “The Upshaws.” The series centers on a working-class Africian American family in Indiana struggling to make it work and make it right without the blueprints to do it. Sykes will executive produce and [...]

  • Vader Streams Shuts Down

    Vader Streams Shut Down by Hollywood Studios

    A coalition of Hollywood studios and streaming companies announced on Tuesday that they have shut down Vader Streams, which was once a popular source of pirated TV content. The service went offline in early May under mysterious circumstances, leading to speculation that the operator had either absconded or been forced out of business. The Alliance [...]

  • Søren-Sveistrup

    Netflix Teams With 'The Killing' Creator for Crime Thriller 'The Chestnut Man'

    HAUGESUND, Norway  — Further expanding its Scandinavian footprint, Netflix has announced its second Danish original series, “The Chestnut Man,” a police thriller based on “The Killing” creator Søren Sveistrup’s popular novel. The streaming giant will team with Sveistrup’s SAM Productions, minority owned by Studiocanal, part of Vivendi Canal Plus Group, to deliver this noir-influenced literary [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    ICM Blasts Writers Guild Over Withdrawal of State Lawsuit

    ICM Partners has slammed the leaders of the Writers Guild of America over its decision to withdraw from its state court lawsuit in favor of refiling the action in federal court. The agency, which was sued in April by the guild and eight WGA members over charging allegedly illegal packaging fees, issued a statement Tuesday [...]

  • succession

    'Succession' Renewed for Season 3 at HBO

    “Succession” has scored an early Season 3 renewal at HBO. The news comes as the critically-acclaimed drama series is just two episodes into its second season. Season 1 of the series was recently nominated for five Emmy Awards, including for best drama series. “We are elated that ‘Succession’ and its exploration of wealth, power and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content