He could bring more men to the “GMA” orbit and no doubt fuel the broadcast’s second hour, when the anchors wander further into lifestyle topics and farther from the news of the day. The show has thrived during his time with Kelly Ripa, whose absence on Wednesday’s broadcast of the program, raised questions about whether she welcomed the change. Expect “Live” to return to the state it had when Regis Philbin departed in 2011: Months of pairing Ripa with would-be male hosts in search of the one who sparks the best rapport.
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Indeed, in recent weeks it has appeared to have borrowed a page from “Today,” which has set Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie at the opening of the program in order to spark a sense of immediacy with viewers.
Natalie Morales and Al Roker surface a few minutes later. This is the dilemma that hurt “Today” back in 2012, when it struggled to win back viewers following the on-air ouster of Ann Curry and began trying to emulate the things at “GMA” that drew viewers.
At “GMA,” where a shot of the entire team at the desk used to be the norm for the open, Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos now hold forth and open the show with news. If Strahan has a bigger role in the show’s first half hour, it could lend “GMA” a schizophrenic air. “Today” wanted to be all things to all people, and NBC paid the price for its uncertainty. No one will tell you that either “GMA” or “Today” is the most somber of ventures.
With “Good Morning America’s” ratings leadership in extreme danger of being tackled by NBC’s “Today,” executives at ABC have come up with something that looks great on paper – adding more of Michael Strahan, the former football player who has transformed himself into one of the most winning personalities on today’s TV screen. In the process, the company is risking another franchise, the syndicated stalwart “Live,” which depends on the good will of TV-station general managers across the country to keep it alive.
To goose their morning bauble, which snared more than $405.5 million in advertising last year, according to ad-spending tracker Kantar, executives at ABC News are stirring more celebrity into the mix at a time when the A. shows burnishing their news credentials (hello, “CBS This Morning”) are rising in the ratings, or at least getting more of the morning audience advertisers want (“Today”).
Those executives just found out – as the rest of the industry did – that Strahan will, come September, no longer be on a popular program that was recently renewed through 2020. As winning as the on-air team at “Good Morning America” is, it isn’t the group that brought home the prize in 2012 for the Walt Disney-owned network. “Today” has won among the viewers most coveted by advertisers – people between 25 and 54 – for months, a dynamic that should bring more advertising money to the Peacock program.
For various reasons, Josh Elliott and Sam Champion, seen as an integral part of the “GMA” mix when it usurped the toast-and-eggs TV title from “Today” after a 16-year streak, left the show for other ventures. At NBCUniversal, according to a person familiar with the situation, the Strahan maneuver is being viewed as a reaction to “Today’s” success, and executives at the Comcast-owned media giant have hopes that “Today” can completely surpass “GMA” in weeks to come.
ABC has periodically tweaked the team ever since – giving a new title to Lara Spencer, a spotlight to news anchor Amy Robach and lots of camera time to meteorologist Ginger Zee. One challenge ABC has is that is cannot manufacture life situations for the “GMA” crew that win viewers’ hearts.
There’s no question that two different health crises affecting Robin Roberts – a gripping battle with myelodysplastic syndrome in late 2012 and early 2013 – and Amy Robach – a fight with breast cancer in 2013 – stirred the emotions of the audience and transformed the anchors into inspirations.
That sort of thing, however, isn’t part of business-planning meetings.
Strahan could serve as a different sort of buoying mechanism. His TV purview now extends from commentary for Fox Sports and his time on “Live” to a twice-a-week stint on “GMA” and the face of a Nickelodeon kids-and-sports awards franchise. The morning-news crew from WABC, which produces the program, simply turn around after their local duties and work on “Live,” which has been led for years by executive producer Michael Gelman.