5:00am PT by Michael O'Connell
Michael Strahan Leaves Bigger Shoes to Fill After 4-Year 'Live!' Stint
Michael Strahan will leave Live! with Kelly and Michael May 13 after a relatively brief tenure as host. His full-time move to Good Morning America in September coincides with only the four-year anniversary of his transition from the NFL to daytime TV — and sets into motion another scramble to fill the seat next to Kelly Ripa, the one originally occupied by Regis Philbin, now with higher expectations.
This current iteration of Live! is thriving by the modest standards of broadcast television these days. Since the 2012 addition of Strahan, 44, the show's viewership has seen steady growth — it currently pulls in an average 3.97 million viewers, nearly 900,000 of them in the desirable daytime demographic of women 25-54. Philbin's final season, even with the fanfare, averaged 3.3 million viewers and 1.2 million women 25-54. Stability during that kind of turnover is a brag-worthy feat, especially against tough competition from NBC's supersized Today, syndicated fare and other options, so Live's growth in total viewers is anomalous. It's currently tied with perennial syndicated ratings leader Dr. Phil for the top slot among female viewers.
Strahan's arrival also was followed by growth among African American viewers and, by a greater margin, men. The diversified audience has helped the show grow its total viewership, while the piece of the pie occupied by women 25-54 has been on trend in its comparative stability.
The shortlist of potential Strahan replacements will undoubtedly include many names bandied about during the previous transition. A total of 59 guest-hosts pinch-hit with Ripa during the post-Regis trial period — her husband Mark Consuelos, friends Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper and Neil Patrick Harris and singer Josh Groban among them. Strahan was a clear frontrunner, based on the frequency of appearances alone. He sat with Ripa 23 times before the reveal that he got the gig full time.
This time around, Cohen and Cooper are both long shots. Each has his own platform on Bravo and CNN, respectively. Conseuelos may be out of the running as well, given his acting day job. His Fox drama pilot Pitch is considered likely for a 2016-17 order.
But if the previous change-of-guard is any indication, producer Disney-ABC Domestic Television will take its time in finding the right fit for the historically two-host show. Philbin announced his retirement 10 months before officially departing the show. And Ripa spent another 10 months next to a revolving door of men, the show briefly renamed Live! With Kelly, before producers pulled the trigger on Strahan.
For Strahan, the transition to Good Morning America gives him a slightly bigger audience — GMA, now behind Today in the key demo, is pulling nearly 5 million daily viewers this season — but the greater opportunities may lie in his full-time employment at ABC News. The show's central trio of Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos and Lara Spencer all have other outlets to showcase their talents. Roberts, in particular, has done some Barbara Walters shoe-filling with primetime specials — while Stephanopoulos hosts ABC's Sunday morning political roundtable This Week.
The terms of the deal not immediately exposed, Strahan's move likely will coincide with a bigger role within ABC News. Just this February saw him join Roberts for her Oscar night pre-coverage, expanded to 90 minutes. And he will continue to appear as an analyst during Fox's Sunday NFL coverage.