Ryan Seacrest announced on Thursday that he will be leaving Live! With Kelly and Ryan and will be replaced by Kelly’s 27-year-long husband and All My Children soap co-star, Mark Consuelos.

Seacrest made the announcement on Thursday’s episode of the ABC talk show, saying he and Kelly had been talking about his departure “for a long time.”

“It was a tough, tough decision,” he said. “Last year we spoke, and I made the decision to make this my last season as co-host, with Kell here on Live! With Kelly and Ryan, which is bittersweet.”

Kelly responded with a sweet message to the departing co-host, saying their experience together on the show for six years resulted in him transitioning from being a “friend to a family member.”

“I love the fact that we get a chance to sit here every day and connect with you in your kitchens and your living rooms, at work. There’s nothing like this on television – I’m getting emotional, I promised Kelly I would not cry – and this show really comes together because of an incredible family of people.

“The relationship and trust and bond that [Kelly and I] have, and that [the audience and I] have had, I will always be forever grateful.”

Ryan will be moving back to Los Angeles (Live! is recorded in New York City), and Kelly joked about how he was able to make it through the east coast winter.

“I’m so proud of you, and cheer you on endlessly,” Ripa told Ryan on a more sentimental note. “I know how much of a sacrifice it’s been, I know how exhausting it is, going back and forth [from New York to L.A.]. And I fully understand your decision making.”

Kelly is no stranger to adjusting to a new co-host on her talk show, having joined Regis Philbin in 2001 before he left in 2011. After a long search for a new member, the show picked up former NFL player, Michael Strahan, who’s presence was short-lived, as he left to co-host Good Morning America. Seacrest stepped in to replace Strahan, and stayed for six seasons.

An insider close to Ryan spoke with People about his outlook on continuing “the next chapter” in his life.

“Ryan is excited about the next chapter — there are some other opportunities and he also has interests in the culinary space, both via investments and content.

“He still has [American] Idol, radio and New Year’s, of course,” the insider continued, “and he’s going to be opening three more Ryan Seacrest Foundation centers this summer.”

Both Ryan and People’s insider confirm that Ryan will make time to return to the show periodically, the insider saying, “Kelly and Ryan have been friends for 20 years and have become like family, Ryan is excited to come back and guest-host in the future.”

As for Mark, Ryan wished him good luck and congratulations in an Instagram post he shared shortly after making the announcement on live TV.

“I’m going to miss my work wife and all the laughter we share,” he captioned a series of photos of him and Kelly, both on and off the set. “When I signed on to host Live in 2017 it was meant to be for 3 years, but I loved the job and working with Kelly so much that I extended my time and last year I made the decision to stay on for one more final season.

“I’ve been grateful to be able to share a cup of coffee with our viewers everyday, one of the best parts of the gig I’ll be transitioning out of Live this Spring to shoot the 21st season of American Idol in LA, continue my radio show on KIIS-FM and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve, and focus my summer on opening three more Ryan Seacrest Foundation Studios in pediatric hospitals across the country.

“I’m looking forward to coming back to guest host in the future and Kelly, I promise to forever share my food photos, chicken eggs, and olive oil with you. And congratulations to my brother Mark, feel free to remodel my dressing room!”

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