Just like that, Mark Steines, who had been co-host on Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family since the show’s October 2012 launch, was gone after five and a half years. There was no mention of his departure on Steines’ last episode, which aired Thursday, with the Crown Media Family Networks posting a brief statement on its Twitter account late Thursday that “Hallmark Channel has parted ways with Mark Steines as the co-host of the network’s lifestyle series Home &Family.”

Steines’ departure was as abrupt as the statement made it sound.

A rep for the veteran TV host said that Steines didn’t know when he went to the taping on Wednesday that it would be his last day. (Home & Family films its episodes a day in advance, so Steines’ last day was Wednesday when he taped the Thursday episode.) That is when he got the news.

“The network’s given explanation for making the change was ‘creative reasons’; there were no other reasons given, the rep said, adding that “we had had nothing but positive reviews and feedback from Hallmark for the entirety of the time he has been on the show including this year.”

In an expanded statement released on Friday, Hallmark Channel said, “Shows evolve and change all the time. Mark has been an instrumental part of Home & Family for the past 6 years, and we are extremely grateful for his incredible work and leadership. We truly wish Mark all the best in his future endeavors.”

I hear Steines, who was co-host of Entertainment Tonight for a decade before joining Home & Family at its start, had more time on his deal, so this is not a case of a network not renewing a host’s contract.

The show’s team, led by Steines’ most recent co-host, Debbie Matenopoulos, looked pretty stunned when Matenopoulos announced his sudden exit on the episode that taped Thursday and aired Friday morning.

“We have a very hard announcement to deliver,” a very emotional Matenopoulos said, fighting back tears. “Our dear friend, our very good friend, and my wonderful co-host for years, Mr Mark Steines is no longer with Home & Family.”

“He has been an amazing friend to all of us here at Hallmark Channel, the cast, the crew and a wonderful friend to all of you at home as well. And we are grateful to Mark, and we want to thank him from the bottom of our hearts for six of the most incredible years that he has had here hosting this incredible show that he helped build. He really did. He’s been here from the beginning and a lot of this show has Mark’s handprint on it, so we support him in everything he does in the future, his future endeavors. We will miss him dearly and we will think about him fondly and often and we thank you all at home for your kindness and understanding and your support and for being part of our family everyday.”