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Is Ben Sherwood Gutting 'Live' to Finally Realize His Dream of a Third Hour of GMA?

Ben Sherwood, Kelly Ripa

Ben Sherwood/Disney-ABC, Kelly Ripa

Could Disney-ABC be cannibalizing one morning program in favor of another? According to a New York Times report, that's how Kelly Ripa sees it. The soap star-turned-talking head has been absent from Live! With Kelly and Michael since learning co-host Michael Strahan was being poached by Good Morning America

RELATED: Erin Andrews and Shay Mitchell to Fill in For Kelly Ripa on 'Live'

To be fair, it is Ripa's 20th anniversary with husband Mark Consuelos. According to the Mouse House, their family is on a previously scheduled vacation to commemorate the former All My Children stars' May 1, 1996 wedding . However, multiple published reports allege Ripa is furious at both Strahan and the brass at Disney-ABC over her co-worker's exit. A New York Daily News item claims Ripa won't even take Strahan's calls. 

RELATED: Kelly Ripa Won't Be Back on 'Live' Until at Least Next Week

The New York Times piece gives a more complete look at exactly when and how Ripa learned about Strahan's departure. Here's an excerpt:

After “Live” ended on Tuesday morning, Ms. Ripa was called to a meeting along with the show’s longtime producer, Michael Gelman, and the WABC general manager, Dave Davis (the show is produced by WABC, and it is distributed by ABC and Disney’s syndication group).

She did not know the purpose of the meeting. After a 20-minute wait, Mr. Strahan entered the room and broke the news that he was leaving. It wasn’t long before tensions flared.

“Didn’t I tell you this was going to happen?” Ms. Ripa said to Mr. Davis at the meeting, according to the person. “I told you two years ago this was going to happen.”  

Lara Spencer, Michael Strahan/GMA

Lara Spencer, Michael Strahan/GMA

The report goes on to claim Ripa sees Strahan moving over to GMA — where he's served as a correspondent since 2012 — as Disney prioritizing their network morning program over syndicated hit Live! With Kelly and Michael.  That allegation is downright subtle compared to a recent People Magazine feature. 

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According to the glossy, the syndicated Live! franchise might be collateral damage as Disney suits move ahead to realize a third and possible fourth hour of GMA. It should come as no surprise to Daytime Confidential readers and listeners that Disney/ABC Television Group President and Disney Media Works Co-Chairman Ben Sherwood wants to extend the Good Morning America brand.  I've only been squawking about it like Chicken Little since the cancellations of soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live over five years ago. 

You'd think Sherwood would have learned his lesson about overreaching. His Good Afternoon America was one of the biggest bombs in daytime television history.

RELATED: Good Afternoon America FLATLINES; Summer Talk Show Off One Life to Live's W18-49 Demos by 70 PERCENT!

 GMA once again trailing NBC's younger-skewing Today in key demographics certainly doesn't help matters. From People:

A network source confirms the motivation behind Strahan's move, saying, "GMA has been in freefall – their show has been number one for four years, and GMA was freaking out because Today is getting better and getting younger fans, and therefore they moved Michael because they are trying to close the gap with a younger demographic."   

TV business bible Broadcasting and Cable believes all the drama could be much ado about Nielsens. Here's an excerpt from the publication's analysis of the GMA/Live! situation:

 In order to expand Good Morning America to a third hour, the ABC broadcast network would have to get its affiliates to give it back an hour of time. That’s a tough sell for many reasons. High among them is the fact that affiliates make far more money from time slots they control than time slots the network controls, because TV stations own more inventory in those hours in which to sell local advertising. Additionally, affiliates tend to have that time already scheduled with other programming, and in many cases, they may not want to move or cancel that programming.  

An ABC spokesperson denied rumors of any planned expansion of GMA and/or cancellation of Live! to B&C

Photo of Kelly Ripa by PR Photos