Ryan Seacrest, the master Hollywood multitasker, was named Kelly Ripa’s “Live” co-host on Monday, giving him a high-profile platform and bringing stability to an important ABC morning show as it prepares for new competition.
“It’s making sure the show is in the right hands — one day, eventually, I’m sure of it, I will retire,” Ms. Ripa, 46, who has been a “Live” host since 2001, said by phone. “And Ryan Seacrest, who is a seamless broadcaster and a kind human being, is the one who can take this show into the future.”
Mr. Seacrest, speaking on a separate call, heaped similar praise on Ms. Ripa. “She is so smooth and seamless and wonderfully clever and quick — she’s part of people’s lives, in their living rooms — and I want to come in as a friend of hers and as a friend to the audience,” he said.
The honeymoon period may be short. Starting in the fall, NBC is expected to make a renewed push for ratings supremacy in the 9 a.m. Eastern time slot that Ms. Ripa and her various wingmen have long dominated.
In what promises to be one of the most intriguing battles of television, NBC will either schedule Megyn Kelly’s new daytime talk show against Ms. Ripa and Mr. Seacrest — cue the Kelly-versus-Kelly tabloid headlines — or move the popular Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb block of the “Today” show into direct competition with “Live.”
Each outcome sets up a marquee battle. Ms. Gifford was Ms. Ripa’s “Live” predecessor. Ms. Kelly joined NBC in January after a successful ratings run at Fox News.
“It’s always interesting to me when people try to pit us against other shows,” Ms. Ripa said, brushing aside a question about increased competition. “We don’t compare ourselves to anybody because we are the only ones who do what we do.”
Mr. Seacrest, 42, joins Ms. Ripa one year after her previous “Live” co-host, Michael Strahan, abruptly left for a job at “Good Morning America” on ABC. It was a badly bungled transition: Ms. Ripa felt blindsided by Mr. Strahan’s negotiations with ABC, which were kept secret until the last minute, and she saw ABC as slighting her show in favor of another. She did not come to work for three days while ABC did damage control.
But Ms. Ripa, who recently signed a new multiyear contract, said she had moved on from that drama. “Whatever brought us to here was worth it 1,000 times over,” she said. “This is a great, great moment.”
“Live,” with its celebrity chitchat, home viewer trivia segment and occasional burst of confetti, has been a brightly lit national television institution since 1988, when Regis Philbin and Ms. Gifford held the coffee mugs. Little about the bouncy show will change with Mr. Seacrest’s arrival, at least at first. “Live,” after all, still wins its time period, attracting an average of 3.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
“We welcome Ryan’s energy, enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit and look forward to all the possibilities that the future holds,” Ben Sherwood, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, said in a statement.
“Live With Kelly and Ryan,” as the syndicated series will now be called, represents an important career moment for Mr. Seacrest. The program returns him to regular broadcast television a year after the end of “American Idol,” which he hosted on Fox for 15 seasons. A successful run on “Live” could give a boost to Mr. Seacrest’s personal businesses, which include a clothing line, Ryan Seacrest Distinction, and a coming skin care line. (The show also brings him another rich payday. Terms of his multiyear contract were not disclosed, but it is easily worth millions of dollars annually.)
For ABC, which has pursued Mr. Seacrest for years, landing him required a herculean behind-the-scenes effort to rearrange his Rubik’s Cube of a schedule. Robert A. Iger, the chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC, was even involved, Mr. Seacrest said.
Consider, for instance, Mr. Seacrest’s Los Angeles radio show, “On Air With Ryan Seacrest,” which iHeartRadio broadcasts on weekday mornings from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Pacific time. It will continue in its present form. But he will now work from a New York recording studio instead of a California one, at least for most of the year, and some segments during the radio program’s first hour — since it will overlap with “Live” — will be taped.
“Very few people have both the appeal and the work ethic to accomplish this,” Robert W. Pittman, chief executive of iHeartMedia, said in a statement. “I’m pleased to see him return to another regular TV platform.”
Mr. Seacrest’s “American Top 40,” a nationally syndicated weekend radio show, will continue. So will his hosting duties for iHeart events and his affiliation with NBCUniversal’s E channel. Mr. Seacrest hosts red-carpet specials for E, and his Los Angeles-based production company supplies the network with reality shows like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” Among his other commitments: hosting “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest” for ABC, maintaining endorsement deals with Coca-Cola and Ford, and various philanthropic and nonprofit pursuits.
“The puzzle of it all is what took a long time to figure out,” Mr. Seacrest said of the negotiations with ABC. “I love to do a lot, but I am very conscious of making sure that no commitment is less favorite than another. They all deserve full focus, full attention, full energy.”
In many ways, Mr. Seacrest and Ms. Ripa are mirror images. They have a peppy polish, teacup physiques and an ability — harder than it looks — to engage celebrities in entertaining conversation. They first got to know each other more than a decade ago at Walt Disney World in Florida, where they hosted a Christmas parade telecast.
Who would land the “Live” hosting job had been a topic of hot speculation for the celebrity news media over the last year. Anderson Cooper? Mario Lopez? For Ms. Ripa, who had approval over who would sit beside her on “Live,” Mr. Seacrest got the job the day in November when he appeared on the show as her guest co-host and did an awkward cooking segment with his mother, Connie. (They made oyster casserole.)
“It’s like he didn’t even know what a kitchen is,” Ms. Ripa said. “And I thought: ‘Did we finally find a flaw in this person? Innnteresting.’”