NFL Hall of Famer Strahan Learns His New Position

Former 'Live' cohost eases into full-time role on 'GMA' team, advancing his unlikely story in morning TV

Why This Matters

WHY THIS MATTERS
Morning shows are revenue drivers at the networks, and their frontline talent are major players in news.

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Michael Strahan is remarkably light on his feet, a trait that served him well as he racked up 142 sacks across 15 years in the NFL, and one that continues to help him ease into a full-time role on Good Morning America. At times it’s a literal description—Strahan showing off his moves when a snippet of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” introduces a GMA story, or when the hyperkinetic hulk snaps into dance mode while joking with a director during a break. Other times it’s metaphorical—Strahan getting a laugh out of Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos with an off-the-cuff remark.

Anchor Roberts calls him a “consummate teammate.” She adds, “You can tell this guy played sports. It’s all about the team with Michael, all about wanting to contribute.”

Morning Madness

The morning TV battles are perhaps the most competitive in television, as GMA and Today continue to duke it out, and growing CBS This Morning looking to siphon viewers from both. For Strahan’s first week on the job, ended Sept. 9 (not including Labor Day), Today snagged the key 25-54 demo, averaging 1.76 million viewers to GMA’s 1.48 million, while GMA won total viewers, 4.48 million to 4.41 million.

A twice-weekly GMA contributor the past two years, Strahan took on the full-time role Sept. 6 after four seasons at Live With Kelly and Michael. While GMA has its share of lighter moments, it’s a more serious role than Live, and an earlier start. “You have to have the energy to do two hours a day, every day,” says Strahan, also host of $100,000 Pyramid on ABC and football analyst at Fox Sports. “It’s a lot different than what I was doing before.”

As his tenure progresses, Strahan will have to prove his mettle on meatier stories and breaking news, but he does bring a blast of easy charisma to a program that leans heavily on chemistry.

One talent evaluator, who preferred to speak without attribution, said Strahan is well positioned to grow as he gains more experience on a news set. “He’s a natural communicator and people just like him,” she said. “I think he’s smart and that’s really the ticket.” Strahan says the work rate that propelled him to NFL greatness (he retired in 2007) continues to serve him. “There are a lot of things you can do in life where you can just coast through,” he says. “I can’t coast through this. I don’t want to hold them back, and that’s made me really focus on accelerating my learning curve.” His GMA mates say working alongside a part-time Strahan the past couple years has eased the transition. “It’s more an evolution than something that’s big and brand new,” says Stephanopoulos, chief anchor.

Speaking of evolution, GMA introduced a set with a live audience Sept. 8, a first in the show’s long history. Overlooking Times Square, the second floor studio accommodates around 80 visitors and is used for the last 30 minutes. The audience, similar to Strahan, raises the energy level, say multiple GMA anchors. “This is Good Morning America, not Good Morning New York City in a studio,” says Ginger Zee, chief meteorologist. “This is bringing America in, and I think it’s the best way to do it.”