General Motors bails on ‘Survivor’

GM votes show off blurb plans

General Motors has opted to end its sponsorship of the CBS reality series “Survivor,” the auto maker said Wednesday, citing a shift in brand marketing strategy and adding that it was not related to recent controversy surrounding a racial theme the program will incorporate in the coming season.

The struggling company, a sponsor of the hit show since its inception, made its decision several months ago, GM spokeswoman Ryndee Carney said, before CBS revealed that the latest “Survivor” would pit groups of different races against each other.

GM has changed the way it views brand marketing, Carney said, and “Survivor” doesn’t fit into that strategy.

“We like our vehicles to be shown as more integrated into a program or a film,” she said, so that they become almost like a character.

Since “Survivor” features people living on a deserted island who don’t drive cars or trucks during the episodes, it no longer fit into GM’s marketing plans, Carney said.

Product placement is seen as one of the television advertising trends that will increase over the next few years, as advertisers look for ways to reach viewers who use digital video recorders to zip past commercials.

A CBS spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The story was first reported in the trade magazine Television Week.

For its seventh season, “Survivor” will begin its contest with 20 people grouped into four “tribes” of five, each team divided by race. The teams are African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic and white.

The concept has drawn fire from politicians and various groups, who say it will encourage audience members to identify most strongly with the group that corresponds to their own race, leading to divisiveness between different cultures.

“Survivor” has been a Thursday night powerhouse for CBS, consistently ranking among the top-rated programs, according to Nielsen Media Research data. Its emergence during the 2000-01 television season revitalized CBS, practically changing its viewer demographic overnight from that of an older audience to a dominant force among adults 18-49 years old. The show also helped CBS regain its status as the most-watched network in total viewers after years of lackluster ratings.

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