Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest Specialize in Small Talk and Big Ratings

Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest Specialize in Small Talk and Big Ratings

2017-12-10 23:21:25

Through the first 10 weeks that have pitted Ms. Ripa and Mr. Seacrest against Ms. Kelly in the 9 a.m. slot, the ratings provide evidence that audiences agree with the strategy. “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” a syndicated program carried mainly by ABC affiliates, averages more than 3 million viewers. That’s 650,000 more than the number tuning in to the third hour of “Today,” a lead that has grown since Ms. Kelly joined NBC.

“Live” also has a big lead among viewers in the 25- to 54-year-old age group prized by sponsors. Last year, it brought in $183 million in revenue, according to Kantar Media, and that dollar figure is heading north. By comparison, the 9 a.m. hour of “Today” brought in $99 million last year.

Ms. Ripa, a former soap opera actress, joined “Live” in 2001 as Mr. Philbin’s co-host, replacing Ms. Gifford. Like Mr. Philbin — who retired in 2011 after logging more hours of airtime than anyone else in television history, according to Guinness — she has the ability to spin the smallest anecdote into morning-broadcast fare. Across her 16 years on “Live,” Ms. Ripa has often mined her life with her husband, the actor Mark Consuelos, and their three children for material.


The show has had different incarnations. Here, it’s “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee,” with Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford appearing with the Spice Girls in 1997.

Buena Vista Television/Steve Friedman, via Associated Press

Mr. Seacrest, who joined “Live” in September, got his start as a radio personality in Atlanta and even now continues to host a daily radio show. He is a 21st century Dick Clark, the go-to guy for red carpet events and New Year’s Eve specials, and he will be returning to “American Idol” when ABC revives the show next year.

On “Live,” he plays the almost annoyingly perfect foil to Ms. Ripa’s more untethered on-air character. On a recent show, his co-host poked fun at him by suggesting he was more robot than man.

Ben Sherwood, the president of the Disney and ABC television group, said he was pleased with the addition of Mr. Seacrest, who replaced the former National Football League star Michael Strahan after a search that lasted about a year.

“One of the things about morning TV and live TV is when you are on 250 or 260 mornings a year, the audience is smart,” Mr. Sherwood said. “They have X-ray vision. They see who you are. They know when you’re in a good mood. They can tell if you really like each other. In the face of new competition, Ryan and Kelly and ‘Live’ have stayed true to themselves and true to their mission in the morning.”

Madonna Complete Interview on Live with Kelly and Ryan YouTube

It also hasn’t hurt that rival programs have been directly affected by the banishment of powerful men accused of inappropriate workplace behavior — Matt Lauer (“Today”) and Charlie Rose (“CBS This Morning”) lost their anchor roles because of sexual misconduct allegations against them.

It seems that what works at 9 a.m. is a liability in late night: NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” has lost viewers as it sticks with a fun-and-games atmosphere, while its more politically engaged competitors, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on CBS and “Live! With Jimmy Kimmel” on ABC, are gaining in the ratings.

“Live With Kelly and Ryan” exists at a great distance from all that. The opening segment of a recent episode was practically a party, with Ms. Ripa exclaiming to the revved-up studio audience, “Guys! Guess who’s back! Daddy’s back!”

Daddy was, of course, Mr. Seacrest, who had made his return after a rare sick day. He showed the audience a photo of the matzo ball soup that Ms. Ripa had sent to him from the Second Avenue Deli.

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