Palmer, a television broadcaster and former NFL quarterback, starred as “The Bachelor” himself in Season 5, which aired in 2004.
Palmer has a longstanding relationship with The Walt Disney Company, as a sports commentator on ESPN, and former special contributor on “Good Morning America” and across ABC News. He is currently hosting ABC’s summer series “The Ultimate Surfer,” and he previously hosted the network’s reality series “The Proposal” in 2018, which was created by “The Bachelor” boss Mike Fleiss. He has also hosted ABC’s Disney Parks’ holiday specials and ABC’s presentation of the NFL Draft.
“For more than 20 years, ‘The Bachelor’ has brought the world dozens of unforgettable love stories, including at one time, my own,” Palmer said in a statement. “Falling in love is one of life’s greatest gifts, and I am humbled by the opportunity to return to the show as host this season to offer the newest Bachelor advice gained from firsthand experience and I am grateful to play a small part in his journey.”
As of now, Palmer is officially signed on for Season 26 of “The Bachelor,’ which will air in 2022. However, insiders explain that the idea is for Palmer to continue with the franchise in the future, both on the flagship “Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” but nothing is set in stone — and the network has not renewed either series beyond their next upcoming seasons. Sources say that hosting format for future seasons of “Bachelor In Paradise,” which used to be led by Harrison, is still in flux. (The current season of the summer series is being hosted by a rotating slate of celebrity guest hosts, like David Spade and Lil Jon, which has received warm reviews both from critics and fans.)
Next season of “The Bachelorette,” which premieres next month, will be hosted by fan-favorites Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe, the former stars of “The Bachelorette,” who co-hosted the most recent season of the female-fronted spinoff this past spring.
Palmer has been an ESPN analyst since 2007. Along with the news that he’ll be hosting “The Bachelor” Season 26, he has also signed an extension to will continue his studio role with the network during the 2021-2022 college football season.
Bringing Palmer back into Bachelor Nation creates synergy between one of Disney’s big money-makers — ESPN — and one of the company’s most lucrative franchises — “The Bachelor” — with the potential to bring the college football audience into Bachelor Nation’s mega-fandom.
“The Bachelor” bid farewell to Harrison earlier this year after a highly-publicized controversy over racist photos of winning contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, which Harrison defended in a now-infamous interview on “Extra” with former “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsey. Harrison’s commentary garnered widespread criticism, causing him to apologize for causing “harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism.” He later stepped aside, stating, “I invoked the term ‘woke police,’ which is unacceptable. I am ashamed over how uninformed I was. I was so wrong.”
Despite his apology statements, the Harrison scandal continued to escalate for months, before he departed the franchise that he had hosted from its launch in 2002. Variety reported that Harrison received a $9 million payout — a relatively low figure for the longstanding host, considering he had launched the show and made around $9 million for two years of work on the franchise.
Amid the Harrison drama, “The Bachelor” franchise played a game of temporary musical chairs with hosts. Emmanuel Acho lead the “After the Final Rose” episode at the end of Matt James’ season. Then, Adams and Bristowe co-hosted Katie Thurston’s season of “The Bachelorette” and are gearing up again for the premiere of Michelle Young’s hotly anticipated season, which premieres Oct. 19.
Palmer’s first season hosting heads into production this week, and will air in the new year, as every season of “The Bachelor” typically does. A source tells Variety that cameras start to roll tonight.
As Variety first reported, the next season of “The Bachelor,” hosted by Palmer, will star Clayton Echard, though ABC and Warner Bros. declined to comment and have not officially confirmed his casting. Insiders told Variety that producers fell in love with Echard — also a former football player, like Palmer -– when he was a contestant on Young’s season of “The Bachelorette,” and opted to give him another chance at love as the Season 26 lead.
When Palmer starred as “The Bachelor,” he was the first non-American star of the franchise as a Canadian, and was the youngest “Bachelor” suitor at 25 years old. His season ended with a winner in contestant Jessica Bowlin, but there was no proposal or engagement, and the couple split shortly after the finale aired, which drew in more than 13 million viewers.
Palmer played for the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers in the early 2000s. He also played in the Canadian Football League. After his time in professional sports and starring as “The Bachelor,” Palmer parlayed his athletic knowledge and television presence into a career as a sports commentator and TV personality. Aside from his work with ESPN and ABC, Palmer has also hosted for The Food Network and most recently was host of the nationally-syndicated entertainment newsmagazine “DailyMailTV.”
This story first appeared on Variety.com.