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Live with Kelly & Ryan! Kelly Ripa Debuts Ryan Seacrest as Her Co-Host After Yearlong Search

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Kelly Ripa has picked Ryan Seacrest to co-host Live!

After months of speculation, the Live with Kelly host announced on Monday morning that Seacrest will be taking up the seat next to her on the popular morning program.

“Today, the next chapter of the Live story is about to be written,” she told the audience at the top of the show. “Today, my new co-host will officially be joining me on Live. And today is a very good day.”

Before bringing Seacrest to the stage, she began, “I would first like to think all of the men and women who sat next to me co-hosting this past year. Thanks is not a big enough word, but they took time out of their busy schedules and out of their day jobs … we all became family, and they became part of the Live family forever.”

She also thanked audience members themselves, saying, “You have been incredible, wonderful, supportive, patient. You have stuck with this show … you never cease to amaze me.”

After a commercial break, Seacrest took to the stage with Ripa, telling her he is “So happy! So excited!” to join her. Then they greeted the crowd as a team, high-fiving and waving to audience members. Shortly after, Seacrest made the news doubly official, by tweeting that he is happy to be part of the show because Ripa “crushes every morning … one of my favorite people ever.”

Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and TV Distribution/Pawel Kaminski

During their opening banter, the pair poked fun of the feverish speculation around who would be Ripa’s new co-host, with Seacrest revealing, “We were told to keep it a secret, and we’re not great at that, so it’s funny because I sent a text to some of my close, close friends and coworkers. Responses were this from people who know me well: ‘You’re engaged! You’re having a baby! You’re coming out of the closet!’ ”

Chimed in Ripa, “If you want to get engaged or have a baby or come out of the closet, all of those things are possible for you.”

Fired back Seacrest, just the start of plenty of rapid-fire chemistry to come: “It’s going to be a busy year!”

But Ripa summed up the big news best: “We don’t call it a ‘secret’ in my house anymore, we call it a ‘Seacrest.’ ”

At the end of the hour, the two shared a sweet Champagne toast, with Ripa again thanking Seacrest for taking on the job amidst his already jam-packed schedule.

“This is going to be the most fun that I’ve ever had,” said Seacrest.

“Welcome to the family,” responded Ripa. “You fit right in!”

Seacrest followed his first day in his new gig with a video tweet, saying it was just “day 1 of many. Thank you for making it easy, @KellyRipa.”

Since former co-host Michael Strahan, 45, announced last May that he was leaving his Live post to become a full-time co-anchor on Good Morning America, Ripa, 46, has welcomed multiple A-list faces to the show as guest co-hosts, including Jimmy Kimmel, Anderson Cooper, Andy Cohen, Jussie Smollett, Neil Patrick Harris and Dwyane Wade.

In June, PEOPLE reported that the search for the permanent position was narrowed down to eight contenders, and in October, a surprise contender joined the race when teacher Richard Curtis wowed Live fans with his charm and poise, despite not having a career in the entertainment industry. Curtis ended up scoring an invite for a return ticket to serve as Ripa’s co-pilot.

In September, sources told PEOPLE Ripa remained “committed” to finding a new co-host, all in due time, but wasn’t going to be “rushed, and so she is happy to take her time to make sure that the chemistry is right.”

ABC

As for Seacrest, he’s no stranger to hosting duties. From American Idol to New Year’s Rockin’ Eve to his hit radio show On Air with Ryan Seacrest, the 42-year-old has done it all. And he’s been no stranger to Live’s guest co-hosting chair as he sat by Ripa’s side multiple times throughout her search.

Live with Kelly & Ryan airs weekdays (check local listings).