Company backs syndie series 'Inside the Vault'

General Motors is getting into the TV production biz, backing the syndicated lifestyle series “Inside the Vault,” aimed at men.

Cris Collinsworth, a former NFL player and current “Sunday Night Football” announcer, hosts the half-hour show, which starts airing Friday on WGN America and 18 of Tribune’s broadcast affiliates, including PIX11 New York and KTLA Los Angeles.

The carmaker developed the branded entertainment effort with magazine publisher Conde Nast, which will provide experts for lifestyle segments that cover gadgets, travel, fitness, food and sports. Source Interlink, publisher of Motor Trend magazine, will oversee automotive coverage.

The show also includes exposure for GM’s lineup of brands, with Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles to be integrated into the segments and the company buying commercial spots during each episode.

GM is still trying not to make its backing of the series seem too overt, however, and is avoiding the more traditional “sponsored by”-branding tagline that other advertisers have opted for on similar brand-backed entertainment.

Either way, effort will not only provide GM with a more targeted platform to target the male demo with messaging about its lineup of redesigned vehicles, while rising above the clutter of traditional TV advertising, but also provide affiliates with programming at a time when budgets to fill airtime are tight.

GM has considerably upped its product-placement efforts, with high-profile appearances in CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0″ and this summer’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” It will also have a heavy presence during this weekend’s Super Bowl.

“New times call for new approaches,” said GM’s global chief marketing officer Joel Ewanick. ” ‘Inside the Vault’ represents an exciting and different avenue for (GM brands) to connect with audiences and create an environment that is different from anything that’s being done in TV today. We want the audience to be able to watch ‘Inside the Vault’ anywhere and catch it at any time.”

Ten episodes are set to air during the first run of “Inside the Vault.”

Alonzo Bodden, of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” and Jill Wagner, who currently co-hosts ABC’s “Wipeout,” are featured in the series.

GM’s media agency Starcom USA is overseeing the production with shingle LiquidThread and Warner Bros.’ Telepictures Prods. handling distribution.

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