Roku began offering an exclusive new TV series, called Cypher, on The Roku Channel (TRC) Friday in what is expected to an expanding lineup of first-run programs and TV series available subscription free.

Technically, Cypher isn’t a Roku original content production. The rights to stream it were licensed by Roku in a manner similar to the way Netflix acquired the rights to the popular House of Cards series.

Cypher is being joined with an assortment of first-run programs salvaged from the library of Quibi, following that service’s recent demise. The Quibi library includes more than two dozen series that were never released to the public.

In a statement Monday, the company said: “Roku is always looking for ways to bring more compelling content to the millions of viewers who enjoy The Roku Channel for free. Roku has the exclusive rights to Cypher in the U.S. and Canada, making it available in those countries for the first time ever. The Roku Channel’s growing audience and overall scale has made it a go-to destination for many content owners seeking to engage audiences on America’s No. 1 TV streaming platform.”

Roku said Cypher is already a top ten channel on the Roku platform, and has more than doubled its audience reach in 2020.

“Our partnership bringing the exclusive licensing and premiere of Cypher to our viewers is a great example of our broader AVOD content strategy that will continue to drive the growth of The Roku Channel going forward,” the company said.

Cypher is a “24”-esque, mystery thriller series, which premiered on demand on TRC March 19th and includes seven “one-hour” episodes. Each show is supported with advertising and made available exclusively free of charge to viewers on TRC.

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The Roku Channel is the company’s offering to cord-cutting customers, and aggregates mostly third-party TV shows, movies, and live news. Other than a few third-party premium streaming services made available to viewers through TRC, most of the fare on the channel is ad-supported and offered subscription free to viewers.

According to a recent Roku blog, Cypher on the Roku web site, “Cypher puts you in the passenger seat alongside top FBI cryptanalyst, Will Scott, as he discovers a coded document. Will soon finds himself in the crosshairs of the bad guys who want their list back. Will must navigate the murky waters of loyalty and betrayal amongst an underground ring of hackers, hit men, and FBI agents – all as the clock ticks in pursuit of the latest targets.”

Cypher marks the first time the company has offered a first-run scripted series to go up against streaming device/platform competitors including Amazon to Apple.

Both Amazon and Apple offer premium streaming app services with their own original TV shows and movies.

It also puts Roku up against powerful movie studios engaged in their own direct-to-consumer streaming distribution, including Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu.

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By Greg Tarr

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