When will Kelly Ripa come back to ‘Live’?

Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan pose during an October 2015 ceremony honoring Ripa with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.

Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan pose during an October 2015 ceremony honoring Ripa with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.

(Chris Pizzello / Invision)

ABC has a new daytime drama and here’s the cliffhanger: Will Kelly Ripa ever come back to her co-host chair on “Live with Kelly and Michael”?

Ripa did not show up for work on Wednesday — the day after she learned the surprise news that her on-air partner, Michael Strahan, is leaving to join ABC’s “Good Morning America” full-time in the fall. Ana Gasteyer filled in for Ripa on Wednesday’s program.

A spokesperson for Disney/ABC Domestic Television, which syndicates “Live,” said Ripa will be off on Thursday. Erin Andrews will fill in.


That means viewers won’t see Ripa until next Tuesday at the earliest. Friday’s edition of “Live” is taped in advance and Ripa is said to have a planned vacation day next Monday.

Ripa’s unexpected absence pumped up speculation that she is angry over the failure of Disney/ABC Television, which syndicates her daytime talk show, to consult or inform her about its plans to move Strahan to the network morning show until shortly before it was announced.

Disney/ABC’s decision to disrupt Ripa’s program to help a struggling one — “Good Morning America” — may also not be sitting well with the star.

“Clearly all this attention going to Michael and him being put on ‘Good Morning America’ can easily be viewed as a negative commentary on the importance of ‘Live,’” said a veteran TV executive once associated with Ripa’s program who was not authorized to speak for the record. “Under any circumstances, I don’t know that she or any talent would feel good about that — especially if she wasn’t told about it.”

A look at the revenue for each program explains the business reasoning behind the decision. Morning shows are the most lucrative day part in the network TV business, generating more than $1 billion annual national advertising revenue. “Good Morning America,” which averages just under 5 million viewers, takes in about a third of that. But its share has slipped over the last year as NBC’s “Today” has taken over the top ratings spot among 25- to 54-year-olds that advertisers covet.

“Live with Kelly and Michael” averages 3.96 million viewers and generates in the range of $70 million to $100 million a year between what it takes in advertising and fees from TV stations that carry it. Advertisers prefer network morning shows to syndicated programming, which runs in various time periods around the country.


But Ripa is still one of the biggest and most popular stars on television. A public conniption over the Strahan move may be a way to get the Disney/ABC to show her and the program some respect even if it’s not as big an earner for the company as it used to be.

The alternate scenario circulating is that while Ripa may be upset with the way the situation was handled, she’s not all that disappointed with the departure of Strahan, who joined the program in 2012.

Ripa was once the rising newcomer on “Live.” In 2001, she took over for Kathie Lee Gifford, who had turned the show into a hit alongside Regis Philbin when it was called “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee.”

Ripa was an immediate success and eventually eclipsed Philbin in popularity. Once that happened, Disney/ABC starting cutting Philbin’s salary, eventually down to the point that he left the program he helped originate.

Ripa is reportedly earning about $16 million a year on the program while Strahan was earning under half that amount. But the former NFL star’s popularity was rising, which certainly factored into Disney/ABC’s desire to add him as a full-time member of the “Good Morning America” family.

With Strahan gone, “Live” is once again Ripa’s show. There will be a lot of attention in the months ahead on who fills in on the program and what their chances are of taking on the job full time.


When Philbin left, the array of guest hosts that included the eventual bake-off winner Strahan boosted the program’s ratings, especially among younger viewers.

The gossip pages of New York’s tabloids are already compiling a list of possible contenders to replace Strahan.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Bravo host Andy Cohen — who have both served as fill-in hosts on the program — are among the favorites to be considered again.

But not much will happen until Kelly Ripa decides to come back. Tune in tomorrow.

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio


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