Disney-ABC has hired Ryan Seacrest to be Kelly Ripa's co-host on its syndicated talk show "Live" as it prepares to go head-to-head with NBC's new daytime program with Megyn Kelly.
After a year of guest co-hosts, Ripa introduced Seacrest in his new role on Monday's program, where he took his place beside her on the set. The show has been renamed "Live with Kelly and Ryan."
Seacrest, 42, brings major star power to "Live," having hosted the full run of singing competition "American Idol," which for years was a prime-time ratings juggernaut. Disney-ABC is paying Seacrest far more than what it would have cost to get one of the other names that were mentioned as a possible on-air partner for Kelly, which included actors Fred Savage, Jerry O'Connell and Scott Wolf.
With Seacrest earning an annual salary that exceeds $10 million, according to people familiar with the deal but were not authorized to discuss it publicly, Disney-ABC is demonstrating a major commitment to "Live" and fortifies the long-running program as it faces new competition next season. Starting this fall, former Fox News star Megyn Kelly will have her new daytime show on NBC at 9 a.m., the time slot where "Live" airs in most markets across the country.
Since emerging on "American Idol," Seacrest has developed a reputation for being one of TV's most adept live personalities. In recent years, he has handled ABC's "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve," where he covers the annual ball drop in Times Square.
Ripa has been sitting beside guest co-hosts on "Live" since May 2016, after it was announced that her previous on-air partner of four years, Michael Strahan, was leaving the program to take a full-time role on ABC's "Good Morning America."
At the time, Ripa was upset with Disney-ABC executives over being kept in the dark about Strahan's plans to leave until shortly before his departure was announced. But she is clearly happy over the hiring of Seacrest, offering personal thanks to Disney-ABC Television Group president Ben Sherwood and others, saying in a statement that they "were incredibly supportive in making this new chapter happen for me."
Ripa can use some help on "Live" as ratings have declined significantly since Strahan's departure. "Live" is down 18% in the 2016-17 TV season, with an average of 3.2 million viewers. It's still the second-most watched daytime syndicated talk show, behind "Dr. Phil."
Seacrest could remedy that decline as he is familiar to viewers and is friends with Ripa. He has appeared as a guest co-host numerous times in recent years.
The peripatetic host will move cross-country to New York for his new job. He will continue to do his daily morning radio program, "On Air With Ryan Seacrest," for IHeartMedia's KIIS-FM (102.7) in Los Angeles from one of ABC's studios on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Seacrest will also continue to handle red carpet event coverage for Comcast's E! Entertainment Network.
3:15 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details.