It was a twist which left viewers of the ITV murder mystery drama Broadchurch baffled.
Why had those enticing clips of luxury cruises, which promoted the series sponsor during each programme break, suddenly disappeared from view?
The Independent has learned that Viking River Cruises pulled its on-screen sponsorship because it did not want to be associated with dramatic scenes of a burning boat.
Broadchurch, starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman as police detectives, has attracted seven million viewers to its depiction of a Dorset coastal town which is rocked by the death of an 11 year-old boy.
A key plot development involves a boat which is set on fire at night and left to drift in the harbour, destroying vital evidence.
The burning boat scene was shown minutes after a Viking River Cruise promotion (“Exploring the world in comfort”) marking the end of an advert break, depicting a vessel in its fleet taking passengers on a night-time cruise.
The juxtaposition prompted negative Tweets from viewers. One wrote: “That boat on fire at the end of tonight’s Broadchurch is how I imagine all Viking River Cruises end.”
The company, which operates the world’s largest fleet of deluxe vessels and plys the waterways of Europe, Ukraine and China, felt it could not be associated with the plot development and suspended its sponsorship from Monday night’s episode.
Wendy Atkin-Smith, Managing Director of Viking River Cruises UK had said: “We did pull our sponsorship from Monday’s Broadchurch, having received an outline of the sensitivities around the content of the episode, ahead of airing on Monday.”
The cruise clips were reportedly due to return to Broadchurch after the company, which sponsors ITV’s Mystery Dramas including Marple, Endeavour and Scott & Bailey, was satisfied that there would be no further boat-related conflagrations. However, the company later said they would be pulling its sponsorship clips from the entire series, stating that they were "not in line" with the tone of the series.
Viewers questioned the absence of the familiar sponsorship “bumpers”. One Tweeted: “Seriously, what happened to Viking River Cruises sponsoring #Broadchurch? Shame? Budget? Taste?”
ITV said the decision to suspend the sponsorship was taken after the broadcaster’s commercial department had a discussion with the cruise firm over “forthcoming sensitivities” in this week’s episode.
Viking River Cruises did not sponsor last year’s ITV blockbuster drama, the four-part mini-series, Titanic.