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The third hour of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” initially created as a showcase for softer stuff, is formally taking on a harder edge.

T.J. Holmes will join Amy Robach as a co-anchor on the early-afternoon program, which since March has been giving viewers news about the coronavirus pandemic, the looming election, breaking stories of national import and human-interest features, along with medical information and analysis from Dr. Jennifer Ashton, the ABC News chief medical correspondent. She will be a regular part of the program, now titled “GMA3: What You Need To Know.”

Holmes takes on his new duties starting Monday, September 21. He has filled in for Robach on occasion on the afternoon program.

The show has been revamped since launching in September 2018 as a showcase for Michael Strahan and Sara Haines – part of a bid to expand ABC’s “Good Morning America” franchise to other parts of the day and build larger advertising packages while avoiding the costs of filling the time slot with a separate production. That show, “GMA Day,” then “Strahan & Sara,” then “Strahan, Sara & Keke” once Keke Palmer joined the production, struggled to find a raison d’etre. ABC News took it off the schedule in March, filling the slot with a dose of hard news and medical advice led by Robach, the co-anchor of “20/20.” Executives seemed to think early in the pandemic’s timeline that Strahan and company would eventually return.

By July, however, the new format appeared to become permanent. ABC News named Catherine McKenzie, a veteran producer who had been involved with broadband outlet ABC News Live, as executive producer of the show. ” Previously, the hour was supervised by executive producers with backgrounds in sports and entertainment. “GMA3” also airs at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. eastern on the live-streaming venue, and is produced by its personnel.

“We think the combination of Amy, T.J. and Jen is an unmatched team in daytime television at a time when viewers are hungry for straightforward news and information,” says McKenzie, in a statement, adding: “Amy has expertly guided our viewers through the events of the past few months with skillful reporting and big interviews. I’m thrilled that T.J. will join her at the helm with his gift for storytelling.  We will continue to count on Dr. Jen and her medical expertise to help us navigate the pandemic and what comes next.”

Having a third hour of “GMA” lets ABC compete more directly with its main rival, NBC’s “Today,” which offers four hours of programming each weekday. The mainstay “Good Morning America” lasts two hours, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., while “Today” is on the air until 11 eastern.  Now, instead of aping the “Today” formula, ABC is moving in the opposite direction. The “Today” hours tend to focus on softer subjects as the program moves into the mid- and late-morning.

Both “GMA3” anchors have traditional news backgrounds. Robach has been with ABC News since 2012, and prior to that worked on weekend broadcasts of “Today.” She continues to report for “Good Morning America” and other parts of ABC News, and has interviewed Governor Andrew Cuomo, Tonya Harding, Gretchen Carlson and Monica Lewinsky. Holmes has been with ABC News since 2014, after first gaining prominence during a stint at CNN, and recently interviewed Alex Trebek following his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.