It's the start of a new era for "The View." The talk show shot its first episode sans Elisabeth Hasselbeck on Thursday, just two days after she announced her resignation to join the Fox News morning show "Fox & Friends."
Ms. Hasselbeck's departure is the first of several on-camera shuffles for "The View" that will occur over the next year, with Joy Behar exiting next month and Barbara Walters retiring in 2014. But even after so many famous faces exit, "The View" should remain valuable for ABC and advertisers, media experts said.
"'The View' is a top pick when it comes to reaching women 25-to-54," said Marc Morse, senior VP-national broadcast at RJ Palmer. "It's a good environment and has a loyal audience. Daytime TV is very affordable and realistically priced versus other day parts. It is an efficient way to reach women. It may not be the sexiest day part, but it keeps on giving solid numbers."
With many broadcasters doing away with soap operas, it has become harder for advertisers to get substantial reach for women in daytime, said Billie Gold, VP-research and programming at Carat. "There are slim pickings, which make shows like 'The View' that much more valuable," she said.
"The View" also attracts a slightly younger viewer compared with game shows, Ms. Gold noted.
The series has become a daytime institution and a major money-maker for ABC. Its new season this fall will be its 17th, making it the fourth longest-running national daytime talk show behind "The Phil Donahue Show," "Live with Kelly and Michael" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show." It brought in $122.8 million in advertising for the alphabet network in 2012, a 7% increase from the year prior, according to Kantar Media.
"ABC has gotten rid of most of its soaps because they are too expensive to produce," Ms. Gold said. "Talk shows have a much lower production cost and are a profit center. It's why CBS made its own version, 'The Talk.'"
"The Talk" is hosted by Julie Chen, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Aisha Tyler and Sheryl Underwood. It won $80.5 million in advertising last year, according to Kantar Media.
Ratings for "The View" peaked in the 2008-2009 season, however, when the show averaged about 3.8 million total viewers per episode. Viewership since then has been on a steady decline. The show is currently averaging about 3 million viewers, down from 3.5 million last year, according to Nielsen.
That still puts "The View" well ahead of similar shows like "The Talk," which is averaging about 2.3 million total viewers per episode, as well as game shows like "Let's Make a Deal" on CBS and some soap operas, such as NBC's "Days of our Lives." "Deal" and "Lives" each average around 2.5 million viewers.
This also isn't the first overhaul for "The View," whose original co-hosts were Ms. Walters, Ms. Behar, Meredith Vieira, Star Jones and Debbie Matenopoulos. Ms. Vieira's departure from the show after serving as co-host for nearly a decade, to take over for Kate Couric on "Today," generated substantial buzz, and Ms. Jones caused a stir when she announced live on air that she would resign from the show -- before informing Ms. Walters and the production team.
Rosie O'Donnell had a short stint on "The View," leaving after a heated debate with Ms. Hasselbeck, while Lisa Ling filled one of the chairs from 1999 to 2002.
But the cast hasn't changed since 2007, when Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd came aboard.
"The success of the show is not based on one person; it's about the chemistry of a bunch of people," Mr. Morse said. "The show is made to be interchangeable. Co-host changes have happened before and you will see ratings go up and down, but the show does well. In some ways these changes help the show by keeping it fresh. It creates buzz."
Other talk shows have survived even after key host departures, most recently when Michael Strahan replaced Regis Philbin on "Live" after a lengthy series of guest hosts including Neil Patrick Harris, Michael Buble, Rob Lowe and Taye Diggs.
"The View" has been preparing for its departures with regular guest hosts of its own, including Jenny McCarthy and Brooke Shields, who have been named in the press as front-runners to replace Ms. Behar. New York magazine's Vulture blog floated the possibility yesterday that Ms. Couric could become a successor to Ms. Walters as the "grand dame" on "The View."
Losing three longtime hosts in quick succession is still nothing to ignore, Ms. Gold admitted, adding that the replacements will need to bring a level of excitement to the show.